Russia launched a full-scale military assault on Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and since then the Russian government has been desperately trying to control the narrative, including blocking Facebook and Instagram, as well as restricting Twitter and access to independent news. Keep reading to learn how to unblock social media in Russia and read uncensored news.
- Russian authorities are clamping down on independent news and social media apps to control the information about its war on Ukraine.
- A virtual private network (VPN) is the best workaround to help access blocked content and provide anonymity for your activities online.
- ExpressVPN is the best VPN to bypass Russian censorship. NordVPN is a reliable and cheaper alternative. CyberGhost is also a dependable VPN with excellent customization.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of people have been killed, while millions have fled their homes. Meanwhile, the Russian government is restricting some social media networks and news outlets to control the narrative within Russia.
Additionally, the Russian government is shutting down independent news, while Russian state media and schools are under strict orders to call the invasion a “special military invasion,” not a war.
Fortunately, if you live in Russia, you don’t have to bear the brunt of Putin’s digital repression. With a solid VPN, you can get past these geoblocks and access the open internet. In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to unblock content using a VPN, plus our recommended VPNs for Russia.
YouTube still works in Russia, although the social media platform has suspended advertising revenue for Russian channels.
Russia has blocked Instagram, with the government saying it’s because the platform is being used to incite violence against Russian soldiers. However, the ban is part of a concerted effort to clamp down on independent media and control the narrative surrounding the war.
Russia has a long list of sites that are not allowed in the country. A number of those sites include porn and gambling sites, but you’ll also see a lot of news sites there. So it’s not just about changing habits; it’s also about controlling information flow.
Russia forbids the use of certain VPNs that don’t cooperate with the government, and there’s extensive government surveillance to detect and block VPN use. Russians should use a VPN that doesn’t have servers in Russia for security reasons.
Setting up and using a VPN only requires a few steps, as we’ll show you below. For this example, we’ll use ExpressVPN, but note that you can follow similar steps regardless of the VPN you’re using.
- Sign Up for and Download the Service
Visit ExpressVPN and click on the “get ExpressVPN” button (or the “Купить ExpressVPN” button). You’ll be asked to choose a plan and payment method, after which you can download and install the VPN on your device.
- Choose a Server Location
Log in to the ExpressVPN app and select a VPN server in a country with an open internet.
- Connect and Access Blocked Content
Connect to your preferred server. Next, open the app or platform you want to access. You should be able to access blocked content and be protected from surveillance.
Why You Need a VPN in Russia for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and More
Russia is cracking down on freedom of speech in social media and news platforms. If you’re living in Russia, a VPN is a must-have, since it allows you to bypass censorship. In this section, we’ll delve into why Russia is banning the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Online Censorship and the 2022 Russian Ukrainian Invasion
Russia and Ukraine have been in military conflict since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. In early 2022, Russia began “military exercises” near the Ukrainian border, and even with thousands of troops deployed in Russia and Belarus, the world largely didn’t believe that Putin would invade Ukraine again.
However, in February 2022, the Russo-Ukrainian war came to a head when Putin launched an all-out offensive against Ukraine — a move that sparked fierce global outrage. His reasons for invading Ukraine include the “demilitarization” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, claims proven to be false.
World leaders rallied to condemn the war, with President Joe Biden calling it an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” while the U.K.’s Boris Johnson called it “a path of bloodshed and destruction.”
Media outlets — both in Russia and around the world — have been condemning Putin for starting a needless war. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become avenues to express dissent against Putin and the Kremlin. They have also become rallying points for Ukrainian fighters and sympathizers.
Russia Blocks Social Media Apps & Independent News
Unsurprisingly, the Russian government hasn’t taken kindly to the pushback. In March, Putin signed a new law that could incarcerate anyone for up to 15 years for spreading “fake news” about the invasion. Further, several independent news sites have been blocked, while thousands of anti-war protesters (Russian citizens) have been arrested.
Even worse, Russia has blocked Instagram and Facebook while seeking to label Meta (Facebook’s parent company) as an “extremist organization.” Although Twitter still works within the country, the company says the service is restricted for some users.
Using a VPN service is the best way to beat the social media ban, so it’s no surprise that demand for VPNs in Russia has skyrocketed by more than 2,000% since the Instagram ban.
In addition to the ground war in Ukraine, the Russian government is also waging a war online to control the narrative for Russian citizens. This online censorship began years ago, including with the government trying to control VPNs — and when it failed, it tried to ban their use.
In 2021 alone, the Russian government banned 14 VPNs, as you can see in our Russia VPN ban guide. However, Russian authorities have failed to block VPN use altogether. If you want to unblock social media in Russia, you’ll need a secure and reliable VPN provider. Our top picks include ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN were banned by the Russian government in 2021 because they refused to connect to the Federal State Information Service (FSIS), which would have defeated the purpose of the VPN entirely. However, you can still access ExpressVPN and NordVPN online in Russia to download the software.
Although CyberGhost is not banned in Russia, it does not have any physical servers within the country — the Russian server is virtual — which means your data is secure from the Kremlin. However, you’d still be able to get a Russian IP address, if you needed one.
ExpressVPN offers best-in-class security, earning it the top spot in our best VPN guide. Besides the military-grade AES-256 encryption, you get a kill switch and DNS leak protection, which work to ensure your data is always safe.
Of its servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN has a few in countries close to Russia, including Finland, Ukraine and Poland. What’s more, ExpressVPN is a high-speed VPN, boasting excellent download and upload speeds, as you can see in our best fast VPN.
ExpressVPN is extremely secure for Russian users. If any government ever subpoenas ExpressVPN to share your data, there’ll be no data available since the VPN uses the TrustedServer technology, which wipes your data periodically on its RAM servers. Read our full ExpressVPN review for more information.
NordVPN is another extremely secure VPN option for Russian people. The VPN’s kill switch and DNS leak protection — coupled with a strict no-logs policy — make NordVPN a top choice. With NordVPN, you’ll get access to over 5,400 servers in 60 countries to help you encrypt your internet connection to access restricted content, like social media and streaming platforms.
What’s more, NordVPN has some handy features for political activists and journalists. There’s Onion over VPN, which allows you to use the Tor Browser and VPN simultaneously. You’ll also get double-hop servers that route your traffic through two servers and to an extra layer of protection. See more details in our NordVPN review.
If you need a Russian IP address, you need to use a VPN with Russian servers. Unlike ExpressVPN and NordVPN, CyberGhost has a virtual server in Russia, which means it’s our top choice for getting a Russian IP address. However, it also has more than 7,700 servers in 91 countries.
Additionally, this VPN service has customizable security features — including camouflage mode and NoSpy servers — to help you access censored websites. It also offers a free one-day trial on desktop. Learn more in our CyberGhost review.
If you were in Russia, you’d have noticed by now that you can’t access Instagram and Facebook, while Twitter is severely limited. Independent news media is also bearing the brunt of Putin’s clampdown. Fortunately, with a trustworthy VPN, Russians can beat internet censorship and get information from outside the country despite the blocks.
Have you attempted to unblock a news platform or social media site in Russia? Which VPNs gave the best results? Did you experience any challenges with it? Let us know in the comments section below, and as always, thank you for reading.