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, 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 the Chief Executive himself, Vladimir Putin. According to the Top 10 VPN researchers, the largest expenditures are in legislative agencies (192 million rubles – BRL 14.5 million), followed by IT and communications (157.3 million rubles – BRL 11.9 million) and health and emergency services (120.7 million rubles – R$9.1 million).
“State officials and companies may have turned to VPN software to maintain access to international media, local financial publications, and social media platforms,” the research text reads.
Breaking down by region, state institutions and public concession companies based in Moscow are obviously the ones that spend the most, releasing around 196,000 rubles (about R$14.9 million). The Krasnoyarsk region comes second, with 148,600 rubles (R$11.3 million), followed by Tyumen, with 57,700 rubles (R$4.4 million) – both located in Siberia, part of eastern Russia.
Internet access disagreement 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 a good part of citizens responded to the government blockade after the conflict with Ukraine by downloading VPN apps. At its peak, demand for such services increased by 2.7% compared to peacetime.
However, as Top10VPN demonstrated, the situation has become paradoxical. On March 15, for example, Roskomnadzor, the government body that governs media and information technology in the country, confirmed several efforts to block sites like 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 internet access, but officially there is not.
Top 10 VPN compiled the complete list of Russian government contracts in a document on Google Sheets. It is available to anyone.
Main image credit: FellowNeko/Shutterstock
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