How goes implementation of VPN law in Russia?

Not so long time ago it was adopted a new law on VPN services in Russia. This law obliges VPN services to restrict access to web-sites blocked in Russia. Otherwise the VPN services can be blocked itself in Russia. How this law is implemented in Russia? What has been changed more than three months after adoption of this law? Almost nothing. Roskomnadzor has another instrument to regulate the internet in Russia.

No VPN service has received Roskomnadzor’s requirement to restrict access to certain web-site for users from Russia. But it is not due to Roskomnadzor’s good will. Roskomnadzor has confirmed no inquiry has been received in relation to any VPN service or anonymiser in Russia. Russian enforcement authorities can determine which VPN service or anonymiser has to execute the provisions of Russian VPN law.

If Russian enforcement authorities ask Roskomnadzor, it require VPN service in question to connect to the federal informational system (FGIS), which contain information on forbidden web-sites and on basis of this information to restrict access to forbidden web-sites. If VPN service or anonymiser does not comply with Roskomnadzor’s requirement within 30 days following the requirement, it is to be blocked in Russia.

Only few Russian VPN services claimed they are ready to comply with Russian law on VPN services. Other VPN services, mostly foreign, stated they are not going to do it. First of all, they intend to protect privacy and freedom of information, therefore they will help internet users to find necessary information free from obstacles provided in Russian law. Some foreign services have stated they are not incorporated in and regulated by Russian law, therefore they are not obliged to comply with it. They have servers in Russia, but if Russian authorities wish to make such foreign VPN services to leave Russia, they can do it and relocate their servers to other country.

Some experts do not believe the Roskomnadzor has all means to affect VPN services because it has not necessary technical solutions. The relevant Russian budget does not provide opportunity to make the analogue of “China Firewall”. Such analogue is very expensive and the topology of Russian segment of internet is different from Chinese. Moreover people use VPN services for business purposes. It is pretty difficult to determine whether VPN service is exploited in order to circumvent the blocking or for business, corporative, purposes. Roskomnadzor did not clarify how to define which VPN service is used for business purposes and which for private.