Natus Vincere, the world’s number one CSGO team and arguably the largest esports organization in the CIS region, today announced it "breaks off every cooperation" with esports holding ESForce and all of its subsidiriaries. The statement, released on their website and Twitter, ripped into ESForce Holding, labeling them a group that “publicly denies the horror that is now happening in Ukraine" and calling the group's actions "unacceptable and inhumane."
The decision may relate to a now-deleted tweet from the Dota2RuHub account which stated that “Ruhub, Epic Esports Events, Virtus.pro and other units of ESForce Holding support the decision to send troops to Ukraine.” All the mentioned bodies in the tweet are owned by ESForce, who also own and run EPICENTER events, and the tweet seems to be an attempt to expose the group and out them as supporters of Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
This comes on the back of a post from Feb. 28 on the Dota2RuHub account, which claimed the account was hacked, and the group has apologized and deleted the tweet that supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as did the CSRuHub account. Na’Vi’s statement does suggest there is more to the dispute than this single tweet, but all signs seem to point also to an internal conflict within the group that owns Dota2RuHub, CSRuHub, Virtus.pro, and more.
"Ruhub, Epic Esports Events [EPICENTER — Ed.], Virtus.pro and other members of the [ESForce] Holding support the decision to send an army to Ukraine," the tweet reads, denying previous statements from the company that its accounts were hacked.
Another RuHub tweet was deleted, as highlighted by community member OnFireDmitri, condemning the aggression in Ukraine, referring to Putin as a thief and a terrorist. It claimed that staff is not being allowed to speak on the invasion due to leadership supporting the Russian aggression in Ukraine, which would certainly seem to line up with future tweets stating the subsequent tweets were made by disgruntled ex-employees.
ESForce wants to stay publicly neutral
While it is impossible to know what exactly has gone on behind closed doors at the VK Group, owners of ESForce, it looks like at present, the group does not wish to take a public position on the invasion and a misalignment between the leadership and its staff in regards to the war seem likely. A position of silence could also be in place to avoid sanctions like those handed down by BLAST earlier today, banning Russian-based teams from participating in BLAST events.
ESForce is currently owned by VK, formerly known as Mail.ru, a group with ties to ex-Arsenal and Everton shareholder Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov, an Uzbeki billionaire with a long history of supporting Russian president Vladimir Putin, was officially bought out of VK in 2021 by Russian Insurance agency The Sogaz Group. VK, on the other hand, has ties to Tencent, as well as being part-owned by Chinese group Alibaba.