Anyone resident in Russia wishing to download a Windows 10 or 11 install image or any of Microsoft's OS install tools will be faced with error messages, according to multiple reports and social media users. As these files are still available in other territories, the Windows OS ISO blockade appears to be a Microsoft policy decision.
To verify the social media complaints, Bleeping Computer used a VPN with the region set to Russia and was met with errors when it attempted to grab Microsoft's operating system ISO downloads. Depending on the files you wish to grab, and perhaps other variables like browser, attempts to grab these files will result in messages such as; "404 - File or Directory not found" or "There was a problem with your request."
It was also found that while it was still possible to download the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool, running it was futile. Upon running this tool, a cryptically code-numbered error message would pop up, asserting, "For some unknown reason, this tool failed to run on your computer."
So, VPNs can be used to confirm the inability to download Windows OS installers in Russia. Turning the situation on its head, those resident in Russia that want or need to grab a Windows ISO can do so by using a VPN and selecting their VPN location to another territory. If you pick a 'random' location as an alternative, please be aware that there are reports of ISO download blockages in Kazakhstan, too.
The Russian authorities aren't keen on citizens using VPNs, but it is promised that VPN use isn't going to put any users in jeopardy – with regard to penalties.
Microsoft implemented a range of Russian sanctions back in early March. It officially announced the suspension of "all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia" at that time, without mentioning anything specific. It has also suspended GitHub accounts of developers working at sanctioned companies and announced hundreds of layoffs due to the scaling back of Russian operations.
While it hasn't said anything specific about Windows downloads, it isn't unexpected that Microsoft has removed these files in line with the March statement - and perhaps we shouldn't expect an additional statement. Microsoft has also previously stated that it will continue with existing Russian customer contractual obligations, but that covers the provision of Windows updates to existing users more than Windows ISO availability.