Devs claim Apple is banning VPNs in Russia 'more effectively' than Putin

Mozilla shows guts with its extensions – but that's the way the Cook, he crumbles

Updated At least two VPNs are no longer available for Russian iPhone users, seemingly after the Kremlin's internet regulatory agency Roskomnadzor demanded Apple take them down.

Red Shield VPN, which is focused on providing its services to Russian users, claims it received a note from Apple that says its VPN was removed from the Russian App Store. The email, which the VPN operator shared on X, says Cupertino had to remove the app from the App Store in Russia since the software did not "conform with all local laws." This is after the Kremlin had apparently spent years trying technological approaches to block the use of the VPN.

"Apple's actions, motivated by a desire to retain revenue from the Russian market, actively support an authoritarian regime," Red Shield said in a statement.

"Over the past six years, Russian authorities have blocked thousands of Red Shield VPN nodes but have been unable to prevent Russian users from accessing them. Apple, however, has done this job much more effectively for them.

"This is not just reckless but a crime against civil society. The fact that a corporation with a capitalization larger than Russia's GDP helps support authoritarianism says a lot about the moral principles of that corporation."

Le VPN also says it was taken off of the Russian App Store, and shared the same email.

Roskomnadzor has been on a bit of a banning spree lately, and previously tried to pressure Mozilla into removing five apps, including VPNs, from the Mozilla store. However, the Firefox maker reversed its ban after a week and the five apps have since remained up.

Google has apparently received similar requests, Russian internet freedom NGO Roskomsvoboda (not to be confused with Roskomnadzor) told The Register.

"We also know that Google has received similar requests from the Russian regulatory agency and has even notified some proxy services that they might face removal," Roskomsvoboda claims. "However, it has not taken any action so far."

Roskomsvoboda believes eight VPN apps are no longer available on the Russian App Store, including popular ones such as NordVPN, Proton, and Private Internet Access.

However, not all of these VPNs were seemingly taken down recently or even by Roskomnadzor itself. "We have not received any communication from Apple as we have unlisted our apps from Russian versions of application stores ourselves back in 2023," a NordVPN representative told The Register. We've reached out to Roskomsvoboda for clarification on what VPNs Roskomnadzor itself has banned lately.

Vladimir Putin's Russia has been struggling to get VPNs taken down for years now, and when a Russian senator claimed in October that 2024 would see Roskomnadzor finally crack down on VPNs in a big way, it wasn't clear if anything would come of it. However, it seems Roskomnadzor's fresh focus is on stopping VPN apps from being distributed rather than merely blocking VPN servers.

We have asked the Tim Cook-run Apple to confirm it sent the notifications. ®

Updated to add

Russian news agency Interfax is now reporting that the mobile apps of 25 VPN services have been taken down from Apple's App Store in Russia.

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like