Surfshark is the #1 VPN for Russia because of its great obfuscation features that allow you to use the Internet safely, fast and bypass bans on any website.
It’s also affordable, provides trustworthy security, and has servers in Russia, so you can access local content (like Moskva TV) while traveling.
This discovery is the result of long research.
I tested the security features of plenty of VPN services and their current restrictions on Russian soil, along with their ability to unblock content.
I found VyprVPN and NordVPN are great for Russia too.
They could be your first choice depending on your needs.
Keep reading to check all the details!
The Best 3 VPNs for Russia
VyprVPN owns all its infrastructure, and all servers are protected by a NAT firewall. VyprVPN also uses Chameleon, a proprietary protocol for obfuscation that has proven to bypass censorship in Russia and other countries. Finally, VyprVPN offers the best pricing and up to 30 simultaneous connections!
Surfshark offers 3,200+ RAM-only servers in 65 countries (two locations in Russia), 2 special obfuscation features, and one of the best ad-blockers in the market (CleanWeb). Plus, Surfshark allows you to connect unlimited devices with the same plan!
NordVPN’s special features such as ONION over VPN and Double VPN
obfuscate your traffic, so it remains private and secure from Kremlin eyes. You’ll also enjoy NordVPN’s performance in unblocking popular websites and streaming services (like Netflix).
The Russian government started applying laws to control the internet from 2014 anti-war protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
It first forced telecom companies, social media brands, and VPN service providers to block certain websites or store users’ data.
That was made in the name of the country’s stability and fight against internet criminality.
However, most convicted were not people sharing children pornography or extremists, but people exercising their rights to express their ideas freely.
To protect your right to speak, you need a VPN capable of bypassing specialized surveillance systems like SORM, based on Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
That’s why I considered only VPNs with robust security and privacy features.
All the services in my list are confirmed to bypass China’s great firewall, which is one of the most sophisticated censorship systems in the world.
Thereby, they’ll do great in Russia too!
Solyanka Getting Cold? Here’s a Shortcut:
My picks cover different use-cases:
- Surfshark – Best Overall for Russia
- VyprVPN – The Cheapest and Most Secure for Russia
- NordVPN – Best for Special Obfuscation Features to Bypass Russian Surveillance Systems
- PrivateVPN – Best for Russian Servers
- ExpressVPN – Best for Streaming
Join me for an in-depth analysis of each VPN service and find the one best fitting your needs in or out of Russia.
Surfshark has a vast network of RAM-only servers, 2 obfuscation modes, and one of the best anti-malware and adblocker in the market to securely circumvent Russian surveillance systems and remain safe. But not only that! Surfshark also offers servers in Russia (for those needing to access local content) and isn’t banned in the country like other providers.
The Best VPNs for Russia: In-Depth Review
The following analysis focuses on the key areas that a VPN service should cover for Russia, like privacy, security, and speed.
Let’s jump in!
1. Surfshark – Best Overall
Surfshark offers 3,200+ servers in 65 countries, including Russian neighbors Ukraine, Finland, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.
Thereby, you can connect to servers that aren’t located too far from Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi, or even Siberian cities.
That is especially useful for better speeds and connection stability.
But Surfshark also provides 2 Russian server locations so you can, for example, access your SberBank account while traveling abroad.
And all of Surfshark’s servers are RAM-only, meaning your data won’t be stored even though Russian authorities ask local ISP providers to store user information.
You can trust those claims.
The provider was independently audited, and the last time was in 2021.
Yet, one of the highest points of Surfshark is its obfuscation features.
It offers Camouflage Mode, a lightweight obfuscation that’s great for circumventing censorship and staying protected from Roskomnadzor (Russian internet regulator) snooping around your data.
Camouflage Mode is enabled by default when you use the OpenVPN protocol.
Additionally, the No Borders Mode provides even more privacy protection to bypass the most advanced surveillance systems, like Russian SORM.
On the security side, Surfshark offers CleanWeb, probably the best ad-blocker and anti-malware in the market.
This feature is relevant to avoid third-party companies or government trackers having access to your personal information in Russia.
Surfshark also works quite well for unblocking content and streaming.
However, they are nowadays having problems with Netflix.
One more plus, Surfshark was never mentioned in Russian bans on VPNs, so you can expect the service to continue being operative.
Another strong point of Surfshark is that it allows you to connect unlimited devices with one subscription.
Enough for you and all your family.
In this area, Surfshark beats all the other VPNs on my list, and by far!
Surfshark is also good for your wallet, especially its 2-year plan:
Here you can sign-up at even a better price!
2. VyprVPN – The Cheapest & Most Secure for Russia
VyprVPN offers 700+ servers in 70 countries, but only Russia’s European neighbors Ukraine, Latvia, and Finland.
That can be a problem if you’re deep in the Asian part of Russia (remember, the country is enormous!) because your nearest server would be too far away, negatively affecting your speed.
But VyprVPN provides a Russian server location, so you can watch your favorite shows in Ivi while out of the country.
This provider doesn’t have RAM-only servers.
But it has a no-logs policy proven by independent audits, last time in 2019.
VyprVPN is also one of the unique providers that own its infrastructure.
Read Also: In-Depth VyprVPN Review
Thereby your data should be safe from the Russian surveillance system.
VyprVPN also offers Chameleon, a proprietary protocol for obfuscation that works great even in China, so it’s guaranteed to perform flawlessly in Russia!
As part of VyprVPN’s top-notch security, all servers are protected by a NAT firewall, including anti-malware capabilities.
VyprVPN assures robust security to all your connections in Russia.
One more plus, VyprVPN was never mentioned in Russian VPN bans, so you can expect the service to continue being operative.
Another side to highlight is that VyprVPN allows 30 simultaneous connections, the second-best in this area for the VPN providers on my list!
That means you can stream Domashniy arest and check out a new Shapka for winter in Avito on your phone while your children game online, all protected!
Finally, VyprVPN also offers the best deals!
VyprVPN’s 3-year plan is the most affordable of all the VPNs on my list and by a margin.
Check here for an even better deal!
3. NordVPN – Best for Obfuscation Features
NordVPN has a fleet of 5,200+ servers in 65 countries, but only including Russia’s European neighbors Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Georgia.
That means you could have problems with the internet speed if you’re connecting from the Asian part of Russia, like near Baikal lake, as the nearest server would still be too far.
Yet, the largest Russian cities are indeed on the European side.
There you can connect to any of the servers in the countries mentioned.
Furthermore, this provider doesn’t offer a Russian server to access local content.
That’s because Russian authorities demanded NordVPN (and a few other providers) to comply with their surveillance laws.
But NordVPN gets into the best-speed competition by offering its own proprietary protocol for enhanced security and speed – NordLynx.
Yet, NordVPN earns its spot on my list because of its unique obfuscation features.
For example, Double VPN and Onion Over VPN provide more protection by sending your traffic over multiple servers.
These features are especially useful to circumvent advanced surveillance systems like Russian SORM.
NordVPN also comes with CyberSec, a built-in ad-blocker, and anti-malware.
That will protect you from internet tracking while browsing in Russia.
NordVPN also works well for unblocking your favorite international streaming platforms (like Netflix) and has servers especially optimized for that.
Unfortunately, NordVPN is one of the VPN services banned by Russian authorities.
Yet, by the date of this writing (10/2021), the ban hasn’t been enforced.
The NordVPN webpage is still accessible within the country.
Finally, NordVPN pricing isn’t the best, but it’s still competitive, especially for long-term plans.
Get a discount here!
4. PrivateVPN – Best for Russian Servers
PrivateVPN offers servers in 63 countries, including Russia’s western neighbors Ukraine, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia.
PrivateVPN also offers 3 server locations in Russia (more than all the others on the list) and one in the far east.
That is especially handy if you decide to visit places in Siberia, as you’ll have a nearby server to connect to, assuring better speeds.
Check how far east it is!
With the Russian servers, you can also access local content when traveling abroad like Okko TV, Ekaterina, Masha and the Bear, and more.
A low point of this provider is that it has a minimal-logs policy, and it was never independently audited.
That may be a point of concern, considering that Russian authorities demand local providers to store user logs and give them upon request, and PrivateVPN has servers in the country.
Going to obfuscation features, PrivateVPN shines and successfully bypasses the most advanced censorship systems thanks to the Stealth protocol.
That will keep the Kremlin’s eyes far from your data.
Another strong point for PrivateVPN is that it unblocks content successfully, and you can watch your favorite series on any international streaming platform (like Hulu or Netflix) from Russia.
Also, PrivateVPN was never banned by Russian authorities like some of the other providers in this list.
Finally, PrivateVPN offers some of the most affordable pricing.
For example, the 2-years plan is as good as VyprVPN’s plan, and its 3-months pricing is the best in its type.
Plus, it’s the only provider offering a 7-day free trial period!
Look here for the best price.
5. ExpressVPN – Best for Streaming
ExpressVPN offers 3000+ servers in 94 countries, including almost all of Russia’s neighbors in Europe and Asia.
That’s great for the connection speed and stability, as you can connect to close servers from any place in Russia.
For example, you may use the servers in Latvia if you go to Saint Petersburg or the servers in Mongolia if you go to Russia’s far east.
But this provider doesn’t offer a Russian server to access local content.
A high point of ExpressVPN is its obfuscation capabilities, guaranteed by default on all servers and proven to work even to bypass the big firewall of China.
That means you can be sure Russian authorities won’t succeed in spying on your information.
ExpressVPN also offers a proprietary protocol named Lightway for enhanced efficiency and speeds.
That means you’ll enjoy high internet speeds in Russia with this provider.
But probably the best in ExpressVPN is its incomparable capability of unblocking all popular streaming platforms, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO.
You’ll be able to watch all your favorite international series from Russia!
Sadly, ExpressVPN is also one of the VPN services banned by Russian authorities.
Yet, by the date of this writing (10/2021), the ban hasn’t been enforced.
The ExpressVPN webpage is still accessible within the country.
Another point of concern is that Kape Technologies recently bought ExpressVPN.
Why is that important?
Because the same company in the past was dedicated to Malware distribution and its CEO was linked with cyber-espionage.
Even though ExpressVPN has a great trajectory and their no-logs claims were independently audited, this new link is something to consider when using their services in Russia or anywhere.
Finally, on pricing, ExpressVPN is the most expensive on my list.
Here you can sign-up with a nice discount.
How We Test the Best VPNs for Russia?
Here, you’ll find the key characteristics that a VPN should have in Russia.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to find the best VPN for your needs!
Security & Privacy
You need a VPN with state-of-the-art technology to be protected from mass surveillance systems like SORM.
That way, the Russian government won’t access your private information.
Your VPN should have:
- AES 256-bit encryption or another with similar (or more) entropy
- No leaks of any kind (IP, DNS, or WebRTC)
- A kill-switch
- A feature or special servers for obfuscation
- No-logs policy and/or RAM-only servers. That way, even if authorities confiscate servers on Russian soil, they can’t retrieve any data belonging to you.
The VPN service should come with an ad-blocker and anti-malware to block trackers (which can steal your data while browsing in Russia).
Features like multi-hopping, TOR integrations, and modern protocols (like WireGuard) are also a big plus.
Unblocking Websites & Streaming Capabilities
The VPN you choose should be capable of bypassing online censorship to access popular websites and apps.
Russia’s state internet regulator Roskomnadzor actively blocks Facebook, Vk, and other platforms.
We’ll cover that in the following sections.
For watching your favorite international series, the VPN you choose must unblock streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
Fast speeds are necessary because you’ll need to use obfuscation and special security features in Russia.
Numbers may vary a lot per country and server but take as a reference that your internet speed shouldn’t drop more than 30% with the VPN on.
Analyze which features come in the basic subscription (security, obfuscation, and speed are essential for Russia), the different plan fees, and how many devices you can connect with one subscription.
Have these values in mind:
- A monthly plan costs around $10/month
- A 1-year plan costs around $5/month
- VPN providers usually allow at least 5 multiple connections
- The best VPN providers include special features for security and obfuscation in their basic subscription
- Most VPN providers give a 30-day money-back guarantee
Servers in Russia
Using a VPN with servers in Russia will help you access local content that’s blocked outside of the country.
With a Russian IP, you can, for example:
- Stream on Amazon Prime all the episodes of Красная королева
- Follow your favorite Hockey team on KHL TV
- Access Сбербанк e-banking portal from abroad, and more!
Check the VPN service isn’t currently banned in Russia.
Till now, most bans on VPN providers haven’t been fully enforced.
But that may change soon.
Russian Laws Targeting Internet Freedom
The Russian state does mass surveillance, with systems getting more advanced over time.
New laws are also passed yearly to widen the scope and include new targets.
That’s why the Russian internet is considered Not Free by the Freedom House Index.
In 1995, Russia’s System of Operational-Investigatory Measures (SORM) was implemented for the first time, requiring telecom operators to install hardware provided by the Federal Security Service (FSB) to monitor:
- Communications metadata and content (without a warrant)
- Phone calls
- Email traffic
- Social media platforms (since 2014)
The system includes Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) capabilities, which allows a more detailed analysis of your data in transit.
But things got a lot worse with internet freedom.
In 2016, the Russian government approved Yarovaya’s law, which:
- Requires internet service providers to store the content of voice calls, data, images, and text messages for 6 months, and the metadata on them (like time, location, etc.) for 3 years. This information can be accessed by the FSB and other government agencies.
- Makes inciting or justifying terrorism online punishable by law to up to 7 years in jail. That has been used mainly to target social media users.
- Requires instant messaging services (like WhatsApp) to give Russian authorities the encryption keys to monitor the communications.
In 2017, Russian authorities started to target VPNs, anonymizers (such as TOR network), and search engines to prevent users from accessing forbidden websites.
One step further, in 2019, Russia’s online regulator, Roskomnadzor, demanded 10 popular VPN services connected to Russian surveillance systems.
They were given 30 days to comply.
All but Kaspersky Secure Connection (the only Russian VPN on the list) didn’t comply.
They received a small fine and removed all physical servers from the country.
In June 2021, Opera suspended support for VPN services in browsers on Russian territory.
In September 2021, 6 VPN providers were restricted because of non-compliance.
Search engine services were also demanded to restrict access to forbidden content.
Even the giant Google decided to comply after receiving some fines.
In 2021, the Russian government also targeted social media platforms, demanding self-censorship and complying with Russian regulations, or paying fines up to $54,000.
There are also some controversial future projects.
For example, the creation of a Russian Wikipedia and a Russian internet separated from the global internet for “suppressing the dissemination of unreliable socially significant information…”
VPN services won’t be useful anymore to circumvent censorship in Russia if the last project becomes a reality and physical disconnection from the global internet takes place.
Content Blocked in Russia
80,000+ websites were blocked in Russia just in the first semester of 2020.
The internet regulator Roskomnadzor blocks websites which contain
- Child pornography
- Materials invocating drug abuse or production
- Items in the Federal List of Extremist Materials
Services or websites not compliant with data retention and surveillance laws are also banned, like encrypted messaging services refusing to disclose encryption keys to Russian authorities.
In practice, some websites have also been blocked for political reasons.
Some of the most prominent websites and services banned include:
- Protonmail (currently blocked)
- DailyMotion (currently blocked)
- Several Facebook and Wikipedia articles
Check here for a complete list.
Russian authorities also blocked several VPN service providers that didn’t follow their regulations.
However, when writing this article, I didn’t find any VPN websites blocked.
Can I Use a Free VPN in Russia?
Using a free VPN in Russia (or elsewhere) isn’t a good idea.
“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
For the case of a free VPN, your information will be it.
VPN services provided for free may:
- Be fake and full of malware
- Sell your personal information
- Have very limited features and/or poorly implemented security
But enough talking, let’s see some facts:
- According to this 2019 paper performed by CSIRO, UNSW, ICSI, and UC Berkeley, 38% of free Android VPN apps contain Malware.
- Here’s an example of one of the most popular free VPN services discovered selling users’ bandwidth for botnets.
- In 2018, a free VPN service browser extension was hacked twice in 3 months, and many users got their crypto wallets compromised.
If you need to use a free VPN in Russia, choose a freemium VPN service (a free VPN with a premium option) from a reliable provider.
I usually recommend the free version of ProtonVPN, but Russia banned Proton Technologies products.
For Russia in particular, it’s better to pay a little and get a safe and fast VPN like Surfshark.
Get a discount here!
Wondering How to Use a VPN in Russia? Follow These Simple Steps!
Using a VPN in Russia is easy:
- Choose the best VPN service for your needs and buy a subscription. In this example, we’ll show how to do it with Surfshark.
- Download and install the VPN app on your device(s).
- Open the VPN app and sign in to your account.
- Click Connect to let Surfshark choose the fastest server near you.
- You can also check the ping times of each server location and choose the one you like.
- Enable NoBorders mode if securing your connection is essential. Go to Settings and then to Advanced to find the switch.
- Verify all is working okay. Open your browser and check for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
- Дабай безопасный интернет!
How to Get a Russian IP Address for Accessing SberBank From Abroad?
Or connect to a Russian server, so you don’t lose any episode of Екатерина!
Follow these steps:
- Choose a VPN with server locations in Russia. Here you can see how many each provider on my list has:
Servers in Russia
Number of Locations
- Buy a subscription, download, install, open the VPN app, and sign in to your account. For the following steps, we’ll be showing how to do it with Surfshark.
- Find Russia in the servers list ordered alphabetically.
- Click on Russia to connect.
- Verify all is working okay. Open your browser and check for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
How to Blog Securely in Russia?
For blogging securely, you need to use a VPN service with robust privacy and security features because Russian authorities use advanced surveillance technologies like deep packet inspection (DPI).
After connecting to your preferred VPN service, consider improving the configuration:
- Enable obfuscation features or connect to obfuscated servers
- Enable ad-blocker and anti-malware if available
- Verify the kill-switch is on for your entire internet connection
- Open your browser and check for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks
Are VPNs Legal in Russia?
Only state-approved VPNs are legal in Russia.
Authorized VPN services must follow the government’s extensive website black-list and store user information.
Fines for using unauthorized VPNs go up to RUB300,000 (US$4,783).
Some renowned VPNs explicitly banned are NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Hola! VPN.
In practice, this regulation isn’t yet strictly enforced.
What VPN Has the Best Speeds in Russia?
VyprVPN is the fastest VPN in Russia, according to my experience in Moscow.
In far east Russia, other services with nearer server locations may have an edge.
For example, Surfshark (Kazakhstan), PrivateVPN (Krasnoyarsk, Russia), and ExpressVPN (Kazakhstan and Mongolia).
Can I Use a VPN to Access VoIP Apps in Russia?
Yes, you can use any VPN on my list to access VoIP apps in Russia.
Your internet speeds should be fast enough, and you should have a stable internet connection.
Choose a provider with servers near your location to ensure the quality of your calls.
Will a VPN Help Me Live Stream Moskva TV From Abroad?
To live stream Moskva TV from abroad, you’ll need a VPN service with servers in Russia.
You can use Surfshark, VyprVPN, and PrivateVPN to get a Russian IP address.
Russian control over the domestic internet gets tighter as time passes.
You need a safe VPN connection capable of circumventing censorship.
If you need special obfuscation features, try NordVPN.
VyprVPN is your choice if the price is what matters more for you.
But if you want the best, Surfshark is the provider you’re looking for.
Check here for a discount!