Russia plans to try to block VPN services in 2024 – senator

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s communications watchdog plans to block Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) from March 1 next year, a Russian senator for the ruling United Russia party said on Tuesday.

Demand for VPN services soared after Russia restricted access to some Western social media after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Senator Artem Sheikin said an order from the Roskomnadzor watchdog would come into force on March 1 that would block VPNs.

“From March 1, 2024, an order will come into force to block VPN services providing access to sites banned in Russia,” Sheikin was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA.

Phone calls to the number listed by Roskomnadzor as its press service were answered by a voice message with the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. An emailed request for comment got no immediate reply.

Sheikin said that it was particularly important to block access to Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

“I would like to note that it is especially important to restrict citizens’ access to the products of Meta which is recognised as an extremist organization,” Sheikin added.

He stressed that this order also applies to those VPN services that give access, in particular, to Instagram, which is banned in Russia.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)