Russian users are having problems accessing the Proton VPN service due to likely interference from Russian authorities and internet service providers, the Swiss-based company said late Wednesday.
VPN usage in Russia has skyrockets by 5,300% since the authorities blocked independent media and popular American social networks Instagram and Facebook at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Observers say the lockdowns were aimed at stifling anti-war dissent and enforcing the Kremlin’s narrative of what it calls a “special military operation”.
“It is likely that local ISPs and authorities are interfering with VPN connections, in which case it may not be possible for us to resolve these issues,“Proton said in a statement.
“We continue our efforts to circumvent the blockage,” he added.
Russian-based netizens began reporting disruptions with Proton VPN earlier on Wednesday.
Monitoring NGO GlobalCheck reported 0% uptime of the domain name proton.me on Russian state-owned providers Tele2 and Rostelecom on Thursday morning. The protonvpn.com domain name was available from all seven major Russian internet providers.
Neither domain name appears in the database of restricted websites of the state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor.
Roskomnadzor blocked more than 65,000 websites, which are still accessible via VPN services, between the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and Thursday June 2.
In March, Proton and two other VPN services announced that they would give Russian users free access to independent news websites, social media outlets and NGOs that have recently been blocked in the country.
Two years ago, Russia blocked Proton crypt email service ProtonMail until it agreed to remove accounts that had been used to send fake anonymous bomb threats.