BLAST have announced that no Russian-based teams will be invited to play in their events for the foreseeable future as a result of the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
The decision, according to BLAST’s official announcement, comes in response to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces that began on February 24. BLAST have also canceled the CIS qualifier for the Spring Showdown event, stating that “we do not think it is appropriate that this event goes ahead at this time”.
Among the teams invited to the qualifier were Virtus.pro, who made it to the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice only five days prior to BLAST’s announcement.
Gambit, who are currently ranked second in the world according to HLTV.org, were widely expected to receive an invite to the Spring Showdown event.
WePlay CIS Qualifiers
The CIS qualifiers for the BLAST Spring Showdown were due to be hosted by WePlay Esports, whose European headquarters are based in Kyiv, Ukraine. On February 26, WePlay announced that they had terminated co-operation with all partners from the Russian Federation, meaning that they would not advertise any brands of Russian origin on their broadcasts or for their audience.
They later confirmed on February 27 that they were terminating partnerships with Belarusian companies after “collaboration of the government of the Republic of Belarus in the war against the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.”
BLAST events and the road ahead for CIS teams
Contacted by Dexerto, BLAST confirmed that the decision will not affect fan-favorites NAVI, one of the league’s partner organizations. Despite the fact that they have a majority-Russian lineup, they avoid the ban because the team and the organization are based in Ukraine.
BLAST are the first tournament organizer to formally ban Russian teams from competing in their events following the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Other CS:GO tournament organizers have not yet stated whether they will follow in BLAST’s footsteps.
Both Virtus.pro and Gambit are due to compete in ESL Pro League 15, which will begin on March 9th in Cologne, Germany.