An otherwise unremarkable (at least for the wider public) weekend of DOTA 2 action got a lot more controversial on Saturday. Virtus.pro’s Ivan ‘Pure’ Moskalenko was caught allegedly drawing a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the in-game minimap.
As Yahoo first reported, during a qualifier for the ESL One Stockholm Major, Pure could be seen drawing the letter “Z” on the map. That letter, seen painted on Russian military hardware during the first weeks of the attack, has grown to become a symbol of support among Russian people for the actions of their armed forces and president Vladimir Putin.
(If you want to read more on the mystery of the symbol and how it has blown up, The Guardian has a rundown on some of the theories of its origin, which are murky since there’s no “Z” in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.)
You can see Pure draw the “Z” in the top-left corner of the map in the video below, before he pauses and starts to cross it out. His teammates, drawing in different colours, can also be seen quickly trying to draw over the letter.
Their efforts were for naught; people did notice, and quickly, leading Pure and Virtus.pro to issue an explanation/apology, which boiled down to Pure claiming the symbol—drawn by a Russian on a Russian team playing against opponents featuring two Ukrainian players— “happened by accident.”
The organisers of the qualifying tournament were having none of it. A statement released by Beyond The Summit the next day said:
Outsiders is disqualified from the DPC EEU Tour 2 Regional Playoffs. Mind Games will receive a retroactive forfeit win for their match earlier today.
All future matches Outsiders would have played are forfeit as well.
Following that action, Virtus.pro themselves released a statement, which spends most of its time disputing the severity of the punishment. “Valve has a certain history of imposing disciplinary measures, but disqualifying the whole team from a DPC tournament based on a drawing on a minimap by single player sets up a whole new precedent,” they said, before adding at the end that Pure has had his contract terminated for “a great deal of harm to our relationship with the worldwide esports society.”
Right after the incident with Pure during game 1 we contacted Valve and the tournament organizer while conducting our own investigation. Sergey Glamazda, CEO of Virtus.pro, personally talked to the players between the games to find out more about what happened. Pure publicly explained himself right after the game. BTS also contacted other players of our team to hear their side of the story. We were notified that the final decision was up to the publisher.
The severity of the punishment is shocking. Valve has a certain history of imposing disciplinary measures, but disqualifying the whole team from a DPC tournament based on a drawing on a minimap by single player sets up a whole new precedent.
Any actions have consequences, whether intentional or not. Virtus.pro has been consistently opposing any cases of inciting hatred in esports. The club terminates contract with Ivan “Pure” Moskalenko for his diminishing actions that led to disqualification from the tournament and caused a great deal of harm to our relationship with the worldwide esports society.
Further changes in our roster will be announced separately.
UPDATE 7pm ET, May 2 - A Valve representative tells Kotaku “Virtus Pro made a decision to terminate a player from their team. We did not DQ the team; rather, the tournament itself does not allow for subs, so by terminating the player, VP also forfeited their remaining matches.”