After Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, “VPNs were downloaded in Russia by the hundreds of thousands a day,” according to the Washington Post. the world.
“By preserving the location and identity of users, VPNs now give millions of Russians access to blocked materials …”
Daily downloads in Russia’s 10 most popular VPNs jumped from below 15,000 before the war to 475,000 in March. According to data collected for The Washington Post by analytics company Apptopia, which relies on information from applications, publicly available data and an algorithm for calculating estimates, this week downloads continued at a rate of almost 300,000 per day. Russian customers typically download multiple VPNs, but data shows millions of new users a month. In early April, the Russian telecommunications operator Yota reported that the number of VPN users is more than 50 times more than in January, according to the state news service TASS.
The Internet Protection Society, a digital human rights group linked to imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, launched its own VPN service last month, reaching a limit of 300,000 users in 10 days, CEO Mikhail Klimarov said. Based on internal polls, he estimates that the number of VPN users in Russia has grown to about 30 percent from 100 million Internet users in Russia. “Ukraine needs Javelin and the Russians need the Internet to fight Putin,” Klimarov said.
In the days before the war and in the weeks after, Russian authorities also stepped up pressure on Google, asking search engines to remove thousands of VPN-related Internet sites, according to the Lumen database, an archive of legal complaints related to Internet content. Google, which did not respond to a request for comment, still includes banned sites in search results …. Although downloading a VPN is technically simple, usually requires only a few clicks, buying a paid VPN in Russia has become more difficult than Western. sanctions have made Russian credit and debit cards almost useless outside the country. This has led many to turn to free VPNs that can have point-to-point service and sell user information.
Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark, a Lithuanian VPN whose users have grown 20-fold in March, said some of these customers now pay in cryptocurrencies or through people they know in third countries.
This was reported by a 52-year-old man The message that the VPN download “brought back memories of the 1980s in the Soviet Union, when he used shortwave radio to hear banned news of the arrest of dissidents on United States-funded Radio Liberty.”
“We didn’t know what was going on around us. Now it’s true again. “