Government agencies in Russia hire VPN services to maintain access to international media and social media
Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, companies linked to the Russian government have signed 236 contracts with VPN (virtual private network) services. The agreements add up, according to a survey by the Top 10 VPN, which examined the country’s official public procurement database, to more than 807 million rubles. The amount is equivalent to approximately R$ 61 million.
Government agencies spend on VPN services to circumvent internet censorship imposed by Chief Executive Vladimir Putin himself. According to Top 10 VPN researchers, the highest spending is on legislative agencies (192 million rubles – R$14.5m), followed by IT and communications (157.3 million rubles – R$11.9m) and health and emergency services (120.7 million rubles – R$9.1m).ADVERTISING
“State officials and companies may have turned to VPN software to maintain access to international media, local financial publications, and social networking platforms,” says the research text.
Dividing by region, state institutions and public concession companies headquartered in Moscow are, obviously, the ones that spend the most, releasing around 196 thousand rubles (about BRL 14.9 million). The Krasnoyarsk region comes in second, with 148.6 thousand rubles (R$ 11.3 million), followed by Tyumen, with 57.7 thousand rubles (R$ 4.4 million) — both located in Siberia, part of eastern Russia.
Internet access contradiction unites citizens and government agents
Often, companies and entities use VPNs to allow stability in remote work and improve cybersecurity. Depending on the configuration, on the other hand, they may adopt a foreign IP address to undermine content restrictions.
This is what happens in Russia, where most citizens responded to the government blockade after the conflict with Ukraine by downloading VPN applications. At its peak, demand for such services increased by 2.7% compared to peacetime.
However, as Top10VPN has demonstrated, the situation has become paradoxical. On March 15, for example, Roskomnadzor, the government body that governs the country’s media and information technology, confirmed several efforts to block websites such as Twitter and Facebook. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov himself recently revealed that he uses a VPN to access these sites. Thus, an ambiguous scenario is constructed: There is access to the internet, but officially there is not.
Top 10 VPN has compiled the complete list of Russian government contracts into a document on Google Sheets. It’s available to anyone.