G2 HooXi responds to IEM Katowice controversy over Ukraine flag

Helena Kristiansson/ESL

G2 Esports captain Rasmus ‘HooXi’ Nielsen has provided an explanation for his team’s refusal to take a picture with a fan holding up a Ukrainian flag at IEM Katowice.

G2’s CS:GO team became the target of criticism on social media on February 13 after it was revealed that the players had refused to take a picture next to a Ukrainian flag that had been brought by Denys ‘d3str0’ Zabarnyi, a Ukrainian CS:GO and Valorant caster, during a signing session with fans.

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The incident came just two months after G2’s team made headlines for taking a picture with a fan holding up a Russian flag during the BLAST Premier World Final, in Abu Dhabi. The episode drew harsh criticism, including from NAVI star Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev, who said he did not understand why the team had allowed the photo to be taken.

This prompted a reaction from Julius Ylänne, G2’s Head of Esports, who explained that the photo was taken before the players realized that the fan was holding up a Russian flag. He insisted that it did not mean the players supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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G2 HooXi responds to controversy

In a Twitlonger post, HooXi shared his side of the Katowice story and explained that the team refused to take a picture next to a Ukrainian flag because of the lessons learned from the earlier incident in Abu Dhabi.

“This time being at a signing session and having learned from the first episode, we were a bit more aware and I took the decision to not take any chances with flags or any other kind of symbols that could indicate a political opinion,” HooXi said. “I politely told him the situation and told him he could get a picture without the flag if he so desired.

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“We had a lot of people waiting in line so I helped him by placing the flag on a desk right next to us while taking the photo. I didn’t think much of it and I still don’t think anyone did anything wrong in the situation. Now posting it after in the fashion it was done, trying to put me and my teammates in a bad light once again is a different story.”

HooXi also urged the esports community to “stop going after” Russians and Ukrainians who are seen taking pictures together at events. This came after his teammate Ilya ‘m0NESY’ Osipov, who is Russian, took a picture next to Valeriy ‘b1t’ Vakhovskiy, a Ukrainian player for NAVI.

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m0NESY and b1t played together on NAVI Academy and became close friends, but that did not stop the Ukrainian player from becoming the target of much ire on social media.

“They have nothing to do with what’s going on and if anything I think it shows faith in humanity that we can see beyond that as normal human beings and still have a good relationship,” HooXi said.

G2’s CS:GO team recently reached the No.1 spot in the world rankings after winning IEM Katowice — their second international title in the space of two months. Later this week, the team will compete in the closed qualifier for the Europe RMR, the qualifying event for the BLAST.tv Paris Major.

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