Russia Pays Price for Internet Block

John Lister's picture

Russia's government has reportedly spent $10 million bypassing its own bans on foreign websites. The country has blocked citizens from accessing more than 1,500 since invading Ukraine.

The figures come from Top10VPN, a site that compares the features of virtual private networks. These are tools that let users access sites in a way sometimes compared to routing Internet traffic through a tunnel so that nobody can see who has connected to which site.

VPNs can get round official blocks on accessing specific sites, particularly when they are policed by Internet providers following local laws.

Since February, Russia has added 1,548 sites to its block list. Most are news sites, including both Ukrainian media and major international news outlets. The list also includes leading social media sites, Ukraine's government, and more than 100 domains that have been hijacked to show pro-Ukrainian messages.

188 Government Contracts

Ironically it's a rare case of Russian openness that revealed the effects of the block on its own government. Top10VPN analyzed public contract documents that show where Russian government agencies have spent money with private businesses.

It says 188 such contracts involve agencies paying for VPN services to get round the blocks. One regional office of the interior ministry alone has spent $1.7 million since February. (Source:

It's understandable why officials would want to see the banned sites, particularly the media outlets. Knowing what's being reported abroad will help officials know how the propaganda war is playing out, which could affect the likelihood of countries offering indirect support to Ukraine or imposing sanctions of Russia.

Citizens Also Bypassing Block

The officials aren't alone. The Washington Post reports that since the war began, "VPNs have been downloaded in Russia by the hundreds of thousands a day, a massive surge in demand." (Source:

It noted that downloads of the ten most popular VPN apps in Russia rose from around 17,000 to more than 450,000 in less than two weeks.

The report quoted one Moscow resident likening his VPN use to using shortwave radio to hear Western news reporting to get more accurate information during the final years of the cold war.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised Russia is paying to get around its own ban? Can a government block on websites ever last in the long run? Have you ever considered using a VPN?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.6 (10 votes)


dwightlightnin's picture

It is a sad state of affairs when humans are killing each other over what? I don't care how bigoted you may be, there is no reason to go to war PERIOD. But look at my subject headline! I'm just sayin'...... KILL PUTIN