ESL VP of Product Development Michal ‘Carmac’ Blicharz has expressed his astonishment at seeing Virtus.pro claim the IEM Rio CS:GO Major trophy, won by Outsiders.
The IEM Rio Major came to an end in November, with CIS team Outsiders winning the trophy at a packed Jeunesse Arena after beating Heroic 2-0 in a one-sided final.
‘Outsiders’ is the name that Virtus.pro’s CS:GO team has been playing under since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022. The use of a neutral name, without any reference to Virtus.pro or their sponsors, came in response to several tournament organizers, including ESL, banning Russian organizations with alleged ties to the Kremlin.
But on January 18, Virtus.pro posted on social media a video of the unboxing of the Major trophy, prompting a response from Carmac.
“This is certainly an unwelcome surprise, as VP did not win the title at IEM Rio and VP do not have the right to misrepresent the IEM Rio results as a VP victory,” he posted to Twitter.
“The trophy was sent to an address in Armenia provided by Outsiders.”
The video has sparked outrage among Ukrainians, who have called on ESL to respond. “I hope such a great company like ESL will find some dignity to do something about it,” said Valorant coach Ivan ‘Johnta’ Shevtsov.
For several months now, Virtus.pro have claimed that they are no longer associated with ESforce, a Russian holding company that owns several esports properties, including media website Cybersport and tournament organizer Epic Esports Events.
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ESforce was acquired in 2018 by Mail.Ru Group Limited, now known as VK. Since December 2021, state-run insurer Sogaz has a controlling stake in VK, with the company being included on the European Union’s February 28 sanctions list imposed on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
In September, Armenian citizen Aram Karamanukyan was announced as the new CEO of Virtus.pro and an investor in the company. Virtus.pro’s Dota 2 team was able to play under the organization’s banner at TI 2022, but the CS:GO squad had to play as Outsiders at the Rio Major and at the year-end BLAST Premier World Final.
Mr. Karamanukyan’s tenure as Virtus.pro CEO proved short-lived: On December 13, the organization announced Nikolai Petrossian as the organization’s new CEO.
A former PR Director for Adidas CIS and director for Mail.Ru, Mr. Petrossian took charge of Virtus.pro after almost a year at the helm of ESforce — an announcement that many saw as confirmation that the two entities are still associated.
Contacted by Dexerto, ESL provided the following comment: “The IEM Rio 2022 Major trophy was sent to the address provided by Outsiders. As Virtus.pro did not win the title, it does not have the right to misrepresent the tournament’s results as it being their victory.”