NAVI CEO considers cutting out Russian players, running an esports team during war

“I don’t know if my house will always be there,” he said in an interview last week.

As the war continues, some NAVI staff members advertise that the company is doing much better in Europe. For example, some members of the finance and law office have moved to Cyprus to keep the company afloat. Some lived in Ukraine, with some workers in the troubled capital, Kyiv. NAVI’s voice has also shifted in the internet industry. On Twitter, the group shared posts that raise money – including protective clothing – photos and videos of the unrest in the country, as well as comments updating the media. a fan of the company’s ongoing operations.

“If you want to help,” said another for new“Stand up against the war.”

In a statement on its website, the company said some of its staff would be replaced in response to the war – mostly Russian players. In the coming days and weeks, those changes will be announced in a series of new features. Some telephone companies may be cut off, Zolotarov said. The controversy will revolve around the team’s “Dota 2”.

The Washington Post spoke with Zolotarov about his team’s position on Russian esports players, performance during the war, and the disorienting feeling of watching Russian advertising on TV.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Some words have been translated from Russian.

Launcher: I know esports and competition are the furthest from your mind right now. What does it mean to balance being in a historic battlefield and continuing to work to keep your organization afloat?

Zolotarov: It’s a little difficult because we can’t predict anything. You do not know what is coming, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. However, you have to do it. It’s not just for NAVI, but for your thoughts. It helps if you don’t just think about the war or, I don’t know, children dying, civilians, etc.

Now, we can say that we are back on track. However, we can’t do our job, media-wise, because we can’t make memes, we can’t make advertisements. We’re trying to use our media to help our country, mostly to make our fans – including Russian fans – aware of what’s going on. To crowdfund. To assist in pediatric hospitals, etc. So I’m not saying we’re 100% doing esports -related activities. Every NAVI employee is doing something about this war, and we’re fine with that. Our main goal now is not to lose anyone, to continue to pay the staff – even if we now have men in the military. We will continue to pay them because they are defending our homeland, and we too.

Some things in the past Russia a Ukrainian Speaking in a press release from NAVI, the company said it would not take care of workers who support the invasion of Ukraine. What does that mean for NAVI?

Zolotarov: We do not work with people who live in Russia and pay taxes in the Russian Federation. Many Russians have played for NAVI for years, and they know that everything that is happening on Russian TV is bullshit —. I think they understand because it’s been a long time in Ukraine. They camped here. They see us.

I am Russian to speak Ukrainian. I don’t use Ukrainian, even if I’m in Lviv or Ivano-Frankivsk. [Editors note: The Russian government has made a big issue of Russian speakers being ostracized in Ukraine as part of a justification for the invasion. Research suggests, however, that Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine tend to identify closely with Ukraine.] No one cares. We have no racial leaders. In our election, the nation rose by two percent – up to two percent! Our president was a Jew, a Russian -speaking Jew.

Obviously, our players, they understand that. However, there are legal issues. If you are a Russian, it will be very difficult to find a post now to express your thoughts or attitudes towards this war. I think you can put it in jail! However, we can’t work with players who live there and pay taxes there. Therefore, we are ready to help move players who are different in the politics of the Russian Federation.

So, if I understand you, one of the things that is playing is the political aspect of the players, because, of course, you can’t work with someone who supports Russian rage.

Zolotarov: Not many Russian players support war or propaganda because, you know, they are new people. They use the Internet. They play on the same platforms as Ukrainians for the rest of their lives. I think, in esports, it’s not about propaganda. I mean, I know a lot of the nation supports the war, but it’s because they’re watching TV and it’s not about the gaming community.

I don’t know any of the sports industry that strongly supports war. And not by force – I don’t know another who will support the war. I just see a lot of silent people. And I understand why they are silent, especially after some recent changes in Russian law. Nevertheless, it is their land. Their president.

What are the lists about? Where do we see those changes?

Zolotarov: I believe our entire big list will continue. We’re really going to end up with a few small tutorials, mostly mobile. We have some issues with “Dota 2,” but it’s not about the political status, or the political opinions of our players or their race. Something new about Valve [the game’s publisher] decides not to work a second time for the CIS countries for war. And the third big thing is to come in the United States.

We’re releasing the second season, and the third season is very frustrating because of the Visa problems that are coming up as a result of the war. So we don’t know what the features will be for “Dota 2” in our area in general. I have called our location “CIS” before, but I will not do this again. [Editors note: CIS stands for Commonwealth of Independent States. It is a regional designation that includes Russia, Ukraine, and a number of post-Soviet republics. The term is often used in esports when organizing regional events to distinguish European teams from those in Russia, Western Europe, and certain Asian countries.]

But it’s not about our list; It’s more about “Dota 2” in our country in general. We will try to keep the penalties and players as low as possible. To my knowledge, most of our players are ready to move on.

Many people really like the “Counter-Strike” roster, which has three Russian players. Can you tell me what’s going on there?

Zolotarov: We hope we will keep this list and the Russian players will move on.

How did the young players and staff react to this fight?

Zolotarov: Let me give you an example. We have NAVI Junior, which is also a “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” school roster. One of our players spent about a week in his basement with his family. He was 17, so he was able to leave the country and we were able to transfer him to Europe, so he could train again. This is especially true for all of us. We are ordinary people. We are Europeans – at least we think we are Europeans. We don’t care about the land. We have no imperial will. I think we want to live in our country.

I think it’s the same for everyone. We can’t figure out what’s going on for the first week or so. In fact, within a month, you’re used to it. You are used to those sirens, at certain times of the day. We have some employees who live in Kyiv. They slept in houses. They usually spend their days in their barns, but they go to a shady place to sleep. Every night, for a month.

Before Russia invaded, were you a politician? Did you care about politics?

Zolotarov: Yes I am. I followed politics, of course. But when I became CEO of NAVI, [the annexation of] The Crimea has arrived. So, honestly, I have to compare. It’s much easier not to talk about it when you’re running a group that has a lot of fans from Russia. So I would say that I was pursuing politics. I was angry at the annexation of Crimea. I was angry at what I saw on Russian TV since 2005, when we were [in Ukraine] we had our first rebellion, because I was one of this rebellion as a student. And I remember that way [the Orange Revolution] shown on Russian TV is very different from what I have seen as a piece.

Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Zolotarov: I was born in the Soviet Union and did not pursue politics [for a time]. I have a lot of friends in Russia and Belarus since I started playing “Counter-Strike.” It was the year 2000. We played the same tournaments. We met in Moscow, in Kyiv, in Donetsk, in St. Petersburg. Petersburg, Minsk, everything – and we play “Counter -Strike.” I was not very interested in politics.

[Then, in 2004] We had elections, and at that time our country was divided into two parts. Typically, there are two candidates: one in the West and the other pro-Russian. And we all felt – at least in Kyiv – that most of our friends, parents, etc were. election for Western man. But in the end, when they announced the results, the pro-Russian candidate won. And that is why the students and active members of the group decided to protest. And then we get this Maidan – the first one – when we ask about the recount of votes. All we’re asking is just “re -read,” for error. Then they recounted everything and the Western man won.

But the picture I saw on Russian TV was very different. They started talking about government movements, we were paid to protest, etc. But I think I’m a student and I know that all my friends from college, my parents, are voting for this guy. That’s when I thought [laughs] Something is wrong with Russia.

In a recent social media post, NAVI said a return to normal, but it is common to also understand the reality of the situation. What is it like every day? How do you balance running the org with the truth about the conditions of your work?

Zolotarov: We said [a return to normal] for our friends. Obviously, we have responsibilities. The good thing about NAVI is that we are from Ukraine, we are a CIS agency, but supportive intelligence, most of our partners are in the EU or US. So financially, we are good. We lost one partner and it was our own decision – a Russian bank named Tinkoff, which supported NAVI. The men who are doing it are good people and they don’t support what they are doing but as for me, we can’t do it again with Russian characters. The one who pays taxes there is not our partner or player.

We spoke with all of our colleagues, as well as all of our supporters, to explain the situation. And after those conversations, we were happy because they were good. They are ready to wait. They understand the situation. They realize that some of our posts may be different now. However, our latest. One of our partners gave me the first payment. They assured us that they did not want to lose NAVI and that they would do everything necessary to continue working with us. So I feel good. We can take care of our staff, we can take care of our roster, players, etc. The only thing that is not known at this time is how long this war will take and where it will take us all.

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