Russian Dota 2 player Ivan "Pure" Moskalenko and the rest of the roster of Virtus.pro (VP, playing under the name Outsiders) have been disqualified from the Eastern European qualifier for the ESL One Stockholm Major after the player was seen drawing the letter 'Z', a symbol seen as support for the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The incident occurred in game one of the Outsider's upper bracket semifinals match against Mind Games, a squad that notably includes two Ukrainian players.
During a pause in the game, Pure (denoted by the color pink) used a Dota 2 function that allowed players to draw on the minimap to draw the letter Z.
Shortly after Pure completed his drawing, his teammates scribbled over the letter in what seemed to be an attempt to cover it up.
Когда пытаешься весь интернет наебать что вышло случайно. Жаль ты тварь намеренно все дорисовывал. pic.twitter.com/JPpfqiS1GD
— Виктор Волков (@KoTHunt) April 29, 2022
Before and during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, the letter Z has been seen painted on Russian tanks and other military vehicles.
With the Russian and Ukrainian militaries using similar tanks and vehicles, it was speculated that the letter Z, among others, helped to distinguish between different Russian units.
Regardless of its actual meaning, the letter Z has since become a symbol of support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine both within Russia itself and beyond its borders.
Following the incident, Pure said in a statement his drawing of the letter Z "happened by accident".
"There was a long pause in the game, the guys and I were talking and drawing on the minimap. When we realized what exactly my drawing turned out to be, we tried to cover it up. I didn't mean to offend anyone, it all happened by accident. Peace to all," said Pure.
Beyond the Summit, the organisers of the qualifier, later announced that Pure and Outsiders have been disqualified from the tournament.
Mind Games, who lost the match where the incident occurred, were retroactively granted a forfeit win. All other future matches that the VP roster would have played were also forfeit.
As a result, Mind Games are now through to the tournament's upper bracket finals. Team Spirit, who would have been the VP roster's opponents in the lower bracket, have also advanced to the lower bracket semifinals due to the forfeit.
VP later terminated its contract with Pure "for his diminishing actions that led to [the team's] disqualification from the tournament and caused a great deal of harm to our relationship with the worldwide esports society."
Eastern European esports scene divided over Ukraine invasion
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the Eastern European esports scene.
Shortly after the invasion began, the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) Spring Tour regional league for Eastern Europe was postponed. Dota 2 developer Valve Software later said that competition in the region would have to be suspended "for the foreseeable future" due to the ongoing crisis.
Esports organisations in Ukraine were quick to sever ties with their Russian counterparts over the invasion. Among these Russian organisations was VP, whose holding company expressed support for the invasion.
VP were also disqualified from the GAMERS GALAXY: Dota 2 Invitational Series Dubai 2022, which took place in early March, over the organisation's refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Eastern European regional league resumed after a two-month hiatus in order to allow teams from the region to compete in the upcoming Stockholm Major.
In order to participate in the qualifier, VP's Dota 2 roster distanced itself from the organisation by competing under the team name 'Outsiders'.