Apple removes VPN services from its store in Russia

Russia’s citizens can no longer download popular VPN services from the official AppStore.

“Apple has removed the Red Shield VPN application from the Russian App Store at the request of Roskomnadzor [The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications in Russia]. We know at least about one more VPN application that was removed at the same time as ours,” Red Shield VPN service provider posted on X.

According to Le VPN, another app removed from the store by Apple, apps were taken down due to “non-compliance with local legal requirements.”

“This event marks a significant step in Roskomnadzor’s ongoing efforts to control internet access and content within Russian territory,” Le VPN said.

VPN providers have launched a petition challenging the decision, saying that Apple’s move aids censorship and limits free access to information.

“This recent development underscores a significant escalation in Roskomnadzor’s capabilities, demonstrating its increasing influence over major technology companies like Apple. This incident not only highlights the challenges faced by service providers in navigating complex geopolitical landscapes but also signals potential future actions against other applications and services deemed undesirable by the Russian government,” Le VPN said.

Russia’s been waging war on VPN providers for quite some time now. It tightened its grip at the beginning of this year by introducing a new VPN law, essentially forbidding VPNs that don’t block access to websites blacklisted by the Kremlin.

AdGuard says the new law, which forbids VPN services that do not agree to block access to websites blacklisted by the Kremlin, “will affect third-party media resources that distribute information about VPN providers such as ours.”

Some companies, for example, AdGuard, insist on working in Russia and try to find workarounds to do so. In 2019, NordVPN said it was impossible to comply with Roskomnadzor’s request, and shut down all its servers in Russia. NordVPN, Express VPN, and four other popular VPN providers were banned by Russia in 2021 for allowing access to prohibited information and resources.

Reportedly, the list of VPN providers currently either blocked by the state or not functioning for other reasons now consists of 15 services.

Users typically rely on VPNs to bypass censorship, access blocked content, and increase privacy. VPN services hide a user’s location, and identity, and prevent their internet service providers from spying on them.

The VPNs currently banned in Russia:

However, the fact that VPN providers are on edge with the Russian government doesn’t stop locals from using their services as they find ways to circumvent the ban. Unfortunately, that might expose them to dangers online.

“Despite the fact that most Russian users are aware of the existence of internet censorship and blockings, and are active VPN users, many of them are not sufficiently aware of how circumvention tools work. Such ignorance on the one hand leads to the fact that people choose unreliable, or even fishy, services preferring cheaper or free applications,” Roskomsvoboda, a Russian digital rights organization, said.