Virtus.pro have released a statement alleging that organizations present at the Dota 2 LAN event, GAMERS GALAXY: Invitational Series Dubai 2022, threatened to have them dropped from the tournament if the players did not issue public statements regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“We have faced an unthinkable situation today,” the Virtus.pro statement reads. “The orgs of GAMERS GALAXY: Dota 2 Invitational Series Dubai 2022 gathered the VP players, who arrived in Dubai by Nigma Galaxy SEA invitation, to enforce an ultimatum upon them. It goes like this: ‘Either your club issues a public statement regarding the situation in Ukraine or you get dropped from the tournament.'”
According to the statement, the threatening party allegedly pressured that if they didn’t make a statement, they would announce that Virtus.pro were positive for COVID-19, although their tests had already come up negative. The only “alternative” they were allegedly given was to “play without affiliation to club or country.”
As of the time of publication, WePlay Holding and GAMERS GALAXY have not responded to a request for comment.
— Virtus.pro (@virtuspro) March 1, 2022
“We do not support any war there is or ever was: in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia or any other,” the statement reads. “But forcing someone to take a public stand does not lead to peace, but instead it drives people further away from each other and fuels hatred.”
This situation comes in light of a now-deleted tweet from RuHub’s Dota 2 account. RuHub is owned and operated by ESforce Holding, which is based out of Russia and also own Virtus.pro. The tweet stated that ESforce and all their units — including Virtus.pro — were in support of Russia sending troops to the Ukraine.
Since the initial tweet, RuHub has issued another statement saying that their account had been hacked and that they do not condone “harsh statements, agitation and insults in official communities.”
Аккаунты RuHub были взломаны. Мы не позволяем себе резких высказываний, агитации и оскорблений в официальных сообществах. Запрета у сотрудников студии на личную позицию нет.
— Dota2RuHub (@dota2ruhub) February 28, 2022
Virtus.pro are not the only Russian-owned team participating in the GAMERS GALAXY Dubai LAN. On Feb. 24, Team Spirit made a statement condemning war and calling for peace. They later stated that they would be participating in the Dubai Invitational with a stand-in for one of the two Ukrainian players on their roster who could not attend.
Virtus.pro’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team has also been barred from an event. On Tuesday, BLAST — one of CS:GO’s biggest tournament organizers — announced that no Russian-based teams would be invited to their events for “the foreseeable future.” They also announced that CIS qualifiers for the upcoming events would be canceled, effectively barring any Russian-based team from participating.
In the above statement, Virtus.pro also claimed that they had never prohibited players or staff from “expressing their personal opinions.” Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis, a Latvian player on the CS:GO team, spoke to Latvian outlet sportacentrs.com about his plans for the future.
“If there are any regulations or restrictions regarding the arrival of my teammate from Russia to the tournaments, visa [issues], or rules from the organizers themselves, then it is very likely that there will be some changes,” YEKINDAR said, in an English translation from HLTV. “All I can do is wait and see how things unfold, the future is uncertain.”
Virtus.pro’s CS:GO team was previously slated to play in ESL Pro League Season 15, which begins on March 9. However, ESL decided to bar teams with “apparent ties” to the Russian government from competing in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 15, according to a statement released by the tournament organizer on Wednesday. Specifically, Virtus.pro and Gambit Esports will not be allowed to play at the event.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on March. 2 to include ESL’s stance on Russian-based teams participating in tournaments in light of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.