Ukrainian esports org Na'Vi sever ties with Russian counterparts over invasion

Fans of team Natus Vincere (Na'Vi) during the BLAST Premier Fall Final at Royal Arena on November 28, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo: Joe Brady/Getty Images)
Fans of team Natus Vincere (Na'Vi) during the BLAST Premier Fall Final at Royal Arena on November 28, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo: Joe Brady/Getty Images)

Ukrainian esports organisation Natus Vincere (Na'Vi) announced on Tuesday (1 March) that they have severed ties with Russian esports company ESforce Holding.

Na'Vi's decision also extends to ESforce's subsidiaries, which include the esports team, organiser Epic Esports Events, as well as media entities and RuHub.

"It is the sixth day of war in Ukraine. The Russian army continues to attack civilian areas: hundreds of thousands of residents have left their homes, the others continue to fight for the future of our country. When people are dying and thousands of destinies are getting destroyed irreversibly, there is no time for esports," Na'Vi said in a statement.

"While Na'Vi employees and players spend their days in bomb shelters, ESforce Holding publicly denies the horror that is now happening in Ukraine. We consider this position unacceptable and inhumane."

Na'Vi's decision to sever ties with ESforce follows the release of a statement from the Dota2RuHub Twitter account that said “Ruhub, Epic Esports Events, and other units of ESForce Holding support the decision to send troops to Ukraine.”

While the tweet has since been deleted, screenshots of it have been taken and spread through the platform.

Denmark-based Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) esports league BLAST Premier has also issued a ban on any Russia-based teams from participating in its tournaments, stating that no team from the country "will be invited to play in our events for the foreseeable future."

The organiser has also cancelled the CIS qualifier for BLAST Premier: Spring Showdown, a tournament scheduled to begin on 25 March.

"We are sorry to the fans and players from the CIS region for this decision, but we do not think it is appropriate that this event goes ahead at this time," said BLAST Premier.

"Gaming and esports unites people from all races, countries, and beliefs. We hope the situation on the world stage reflects this as soon as possible."

Several esports players and organisations from both Ukraine and Russia have spoken out against the conflict between the two countries, after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion last week.

Ukrainian Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev — the face of Na'Vi's CS:GO team and widely believed to be the best-ever player in his esport — gave a powerful speech at the Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO in Katowice, Poland and said that he and his Russian teammates are just wishing for peace.

"My whole career I’ve played with Ukrainian players, I’ve played with Russian players and I’ve played with American players. And right now I stay with my friends, with my real friends. We win together. And we lose together. And all of us want peace for Ukraine and for the whole world," said s1mple, who is notably teammates with three Russian players in Na'Vi.

"All of us are scared, and all of us need to show an example in this tournament for the whole world … We all need to stay humans first.”

Team Spirit, champions of Dota 2's The International 10, also spoke out against the conflict, saying "there is nothing worse than war. There is nothing more precious than human lives." Team Spirit's Dota 2 roster is notably comprised of both Ukrainian and Russian players.

"We are against war and we are against violence. If thousands of years of human history taught us anything, it's that peace is the only thing worth holding on to," added Team Spirit.

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia has ground the esports scene in Eastern Europe to a halt, with Dota 2 developer Valve Software recently indefinitely postponing all professional competition in the region.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can help Ukraine during this crisis, here is a list of international organizations you can donate to.

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