The number of virtual private networks (vpn) users in Russia have skyrocketed since the country invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, according to new reports.
In a report on how Russians circumvent media censorship and control in the country, the Washington Post indicates that daily downloads of the 10 most popular VPNs increased from around 15,000 in mid-February to 475,000 in March.
Even today, daily downloads hit the 300,000 mark, the Washington Post said, citing data from data intelligence platform Apptopia.
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But Apptopia isn’t the only source claiming an increase in VPN demand – even Russian telecom operators have confirmed the trend. Apparently, at the beginning of April, Yota said that the number of VPN users in the country had increased by 50 times compared to January.
Digital rights group, The Internet Protection Society, also recently launched a VPN service and reached its limit of 300,000 users in 10 days. This group, the publication says, has close ties to Alexei Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent competitors.
Russia has always ruled its Internet with an iron fist, but since the invasion began, the grip on Western media and navigation websites tightened further. Sites such as Facebook and Instagram have also been banned, and it seems only a matter of time before YouTube also bites the dust.
To deter Russia from the war and put pressure on the country, Western countries imposed heavy sanctions, including removing the country from the SWIFT payment system, rendering most credit cards obsolete in the country.
It also made buying VPNs a bit difficult. While some use free VPN services, these can sometimes be of poor quality. Those who still want a commercial solution paid through friends in third countries or through cryptocurrencies.
Some VPN providers accept direct payment in cryptocurrency.
Going through: Washington Post