Apple has reportedly removed 25 virtual private network (VPN) services from the Russian version of the App Store at the request of state internet regulator Roskomnadzor.

The blocked services include popular apps such as NordVPN, Proton VPN, Red Shield VPN, and Planet VPN, Roskomnadzor told news agency Interfax.

VPN services are in high demand in Russia, as they allow citizens to access the web while bypassing government censorship. The government blocks the majority of Western social networks and news media, as well as local opposition media outlets, from access through Russian IP addresses. VPNs mask the location of a web browser.

Several services, including Red Shield VPN and LeVPN, confirmed last Thursday that their apps are no longer available for iOS users in Russia and shared a copy of the letter they received from Apple.

The reason cited for the removal was noncompliance with local legal requirements, specifically referencing content considered illegal in Russia.

“Apple’s action is not just fantastic hypocrisy and cowardice, but a real crime against freedom of information and civil society,” Red Shield VPN said in a statement on X last week, asking Russian users to sign a petition demanding Apple reverse its decision.

“Over the past six years, Russian authori in ties 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,” the company said.

Apple did not respond to Recorded Future News’ request for comment as of Monday morning Eastern U.S. time.

The latest blockings mark “a significant step in Roskomnadzor’s ongoing efforts to control internet access and content within Russian territory,” LeVPN stated.

The company said it has reached out to Roskomnadzor for further clarification and filed an appeal against the decision. It has also begun collaborating with human rights activists and other VPN providers to “assess the situation more broadly.”

LeVPN claimed that Roskomnadzor has already made several attempts to block its protocols but failed.

“This recent development underscores a significant escalation in Roskomnadzor’s capabilities, demonstrating its increasing influence over major technology companies like Apple,” the company said.

To bypass the latest restrictions, LeVPN launched a service allowing users to connect to its servers using specialized software and obfuscated VPN connections. Red Shield VPN recommended users change their Apple ID’s region or country settings to regain access to the service.

Roskomnadzor conducted two waves of large-scale blocking of VPN services in August and September of last year, affecting services such as WireGuard, OpenVPN and the IPSec protocols.

Banning VPN services is just one of many ways the Kremlin is trying to control and isolate the Russian internet.

Since March of this year, Roskomnadzor also has the power to ban websites that inform readers on how to access banned media and websites, as well as those that advocate for unhindered VPN access.

Russia is also shutting down communication and taking social networks offline during protests or socially significant events, such as elections. Earlier in January, social media apps Telegram and WhatsApp were disrupted in a remote Russian region of Bashkortostan where hundreds of people protested against the sentencing of a local activist.

Over this weekend, WhatsApp reportedly faced disruptions in the Russian republic of Dagestan. The local authorities were allegedly slowing access to the app over the platform’s refusal to curb the spread of “calls to participate in extremist actions,” the state news agency TASS reported Monday, citing an unidentified source.

Users in Dagestan struggled to access WhatsApp even with a VPN, as it worked only in 10-minute increments and had to be restarted to resume access to WhatsApp, according to the Russian media Kommersant.

Earlier in July, Dagestan suffered a wave of coordinated attacks on two churches, two synagogues, and a police checkpoint. At least 22 people were killed during those attacks.

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