Staunton, Aug. 10 – Mikhail Klimaryev, an expert on the Russian Internet and head of the Society for the Defense of the Internet, says that the situation of this electronic media in the Russian Federation is already “worse than in China” and that it is headed down toward the situations in North Korea or Turkmenistan.
Since the beginning of summer, he says, Russia’s media agency, Roskomnadzor, has been conducting a veritable “war” against the VPN services people use to get around other kinds of blockages (currenttime.tv/a/dve-ostanovki-do-polnogo-shatdauna-kak-v-turkmenistane-roskomnadzor-nashel-novye-sposoby-borby-s-vpn-v-rossii-k-chemu-eto-privedet-/32541221.html).
Over the past year, Klimaryev says, Roskomnadzor has blocked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; but it had held off blocking VPNs because Russian businesses rely on them to communicate with abroad. But now as such comunication is opposed by the Kremlin, it is blocking VPN service companies even though this is having negative economic consequences.
Moscow first blocked the companies that provide VPN services in Russia and now it is using special tools to selectively block what information is sent over such networks in the hopes that it can allow some business activity but prevent VPNs from serving as an alternative source of political news and views.
The Russian authorities are now in a position to shut down the Internet during a crisis much as Belarus did during the protests in 2020 and Kazakhstan at the time of the rising in 2022, and they are moving toward systems like those in Turkmenistan where the regime controls all VPN companies or in North Korea where it doesn’t allow any VPN activity at all.
If the regime does move in those directions – and the current actions of Roskomnadzor suggest that is precisely what will happen – the Kremlin will be able to restrict further the influx of independent news; but it will do so only at the cost of further depressing economic activity in the Russian Federation, Kimaryev concludes.