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Millions Annoyed as Ukraine Bans Russian Websites

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

May 16, 2017

Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, has today tightened internet censorship in the country. The latest wave of website bans stops millions of people from accessing highly popular social media sites and other internet services based in Russia.

The ban comes in the midst of severe political turmoil between the two nations. The good news is that anybody in Ukraine who wants to continue using Russian websites can do so by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The websites in question are the Russian-owned Vkontakte (VK.com), the search engine Yandex, Mail.ru, and Odnoklassniki (OK.ru). Those websites are immensely popular and are believed to be regularly used by more than half of the Ukraine’s citizens. VK.com, for example, owes half of its users to Ukraine, where approximately 15 million people use the website.

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Immediate Blockade

The new sanctions, which are to be imposed by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are in direct response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine. That war, which has been ongoing since the beginning of 2014, has killed approximately 10,000 people and shows no signs of ceasing. It is because of this, that Poroshenko’s government is putting ever more sanctions on Russian firms, including this blackout of Russian-owned websites.

The ban is causing huge controversy among Ukrainian internet users, who are accustomed to using popular Russian social media platforms. However, popular blogger Anton Hodza has referred to the ban as a “fantastic opportunity” for Ukrainian tech start-ups to move in and fill the vacuum.

Hodza’s opinion, however, appears to be in the minority. Oksana Romanyuk, a journalist from Reporters Without Borders, has made it clear that she believes the economic sanctions are a direct attack on Ukraine’s own people. Artur Orujaliev, an IT expert from the nation, has also condemned the decision, referring to it as severe censorship.

National Security

Volodymyr Ariev, an MP from Ukraine, has referred to the sanction imposed in today’s decree as necessary to national security. In a Facebook comment, he made the following statement about the frustrating sanctions:

“The servers of these Russian social networks … store the personal data of Ukrainian users and information on their movements, contacts, communications.”

Even the website of world-renowned cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has been blocked by today’s Ukrainian decree. This alone must be a huge frustration, as Kaspersky is one of the best ways to deal with a WannaCrpt0r ransomware infection. Another IT security firm called Dr. Web has also been blocked.

A news community on the social media site VK called Tipichnyy Kiev, has already offered advice to people who are feeling the brunt of the ban. That community has 650,000 subscribers, and many of them are complaining about the sudden inability to communicate with friends, family, and other contacts. Tipichnyy Kiev is recommending that people move onto other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In addition, the news community is recommending that people turn to proxies in order to overcome the restrictions. For people in Ukraine who are desperate to keep using their social media subscriptions, the best course of action is to use a VPN service.

Why Is a VPN the Best Way to Unblock Russian Websites? (Kак разблокировать доступ к российским сайтам из Украины)

A VPN service is a technology that allows people to pretend to be in a different country. In this case, the VPN provider must have a server outside of Ukraine for citizens to connect to (and preferably in Russia if you intend to watch geo-restricted TV streams and services). Once connected to a VPN server, any Ukrainian citizen instantly appears to have a foreign IP address, and is able to continue using Russian websites as they did prior to the ban.

That means that, with a VPN, anybody can unblock Vkontakte or unblock Odnoklassniki!

VPN Encryption

In addition, a VPN encrypts all user data coming and going from a protected device. With all their data encrypted, VPN users are safe from the prying eyes of ISPs and the Ukrainian Government – which have no way to know that Ukrainian citizens are bypassing the restrictions.

Best VPN to Unblock VK.com

For anybody who wants to keep using Vkontakte (VK.com), Yandex, or Odnoklassniki (OK.ru), a reliable and fast VPN with servers in Russia is necessary. The two best options are VPNArea and ExpressVPN.

Both of those services are secure and have fast, trusted networks with servers located in Russia. As such, anybody in Ukraine will be able to easily unblock any Russian websites simply by subscribing and logging onto one of those world class VPNs.

Russian TV Streams Also Blocked

Frustratingly for Ukrainian citizens, Poroshenko’s crackdown on Russian websites also means that several Russian media and TV channels are blocked. This includes Rossiya Segodnya, RBC, VGTRK, and TNT. With a VPN, these streams can also be restored, giving citizens full, unrestricted access to watch whatever shows they want.

All in all, today’s round of website bans brings the total number of blocked Russian companies with sanctions against them to 465. Among those are banks, the airline Aeroflot, Russian Helicopters, and state-owned weapons manufacturer and exporter Rosoboronexport.

Title image credit: Sergey Furtaev/Shutterstock.com

Image credits: Drop of Light/Shutterstock.com, Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock.com

Ray Walsh

I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR. I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality, and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood, and love to listen to trap music.

6 responses to “Millions Annoyed as Ukraine Bans Russian Websites

  1. You wrote “In this case, the VPN provider must have a server within Russia for Ukrainian citizens to connect to” this is totally wrong, servers may be anywhere except Ukraine. so any VNP provider with servers anywhere can do the job. Kaspersky secure connection is also a good option and very economic, and offers 1 month free trial.

    1. I understand your point. For many services, it may well be ok to simply connect to a VPN server outside of Ukraine. However, some services and TV streams may well be geo-restricted to Russia and Ukraine (a massively Russian speaking country) only, as such a Russian server is still preferable. In addition, it is closer and will provide better speeds. You should always use a VPN server closer to both yourself and the website you intend to use for the best possible connection speeds – on this occasion that is Russia. Lastly, I understand your suggestion, but as Kaspersky is currently blocked in Ukraine it would require a VPN in order to get that VPN.

  2. Don’t go around the ban. Russia is gathering Intel on citizens and looking for more vulnerabilities. Fuck bestvpn for trying to capitalize here. This is a matter of national security.

    1. I completely disagree. Many important people have gone on the record within Ukraine expressing their distaste for this censorship. Censorship is wrong and BestVPN is ALL about giving people the freedom and choice to use the internet as they wish. Considering the level of antipathy towards the recent Russian website blocks within the country, and the stark reality that the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens just want to use VK.com to communicate with family and friends, it seems clear to me that this is a political move that harms Ukraine’s citizens directly. As such, I feel it is only fair to help as many people as I can within the nation to overcome this tyranny.

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