Russian Esports Federation withdraws from IESF 2024 following new sanctions

The RESF was found to be hosting offices in illegally occupied Ukrainian territory.

According to a press release on the Russian Esports Federation's (RESF) website, the federation has made the decision to withdraw from IESF 2024 with immediate effect after being sanctioned by the IESF and barred from using Russian national symbols in the upcoming competition and its qualifiers.

The news follows reporting by Richard Lewis that revealed the RESF had been sanctioned by the IESF due to the RESF setting up offices in illegally occupied Ukrainian territory. These allegations had been first brought forward by the Ukrainian Esports Federation (UESF) in January, leading to a temporary suspension of the RESF. Following a later investigation by the IESF General Secretariat, the RESF's suspension was lifted while prohibiting the body from using Russian national symbols in future competitions.

For context, following the beginning of Russia's war against Ukraine in 2014, Russia has engaged in an illegal campaign of seizing Ukrainian territory starting with Crimea and Sevastopol. More recently, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russia held widely regarded sham elections to annex the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic and Kherson Oblast and Zaporizhzhia Oblast in 2022.

The RESF's press release announcing their withdrawal from IESF 2024 protests the sanctions applied by the IESF, while not disputing that the RESF has offices in internationally recognized Ukrainian territory.

The decision by the RESF to setup offices in Ukrainian territory runs afoul of Article E-31 (i) of the IESF Statute which obliges all federations to respect the territory integrity and sovereignty of other members. The RESF's protest of the IESF Secretariat's sanctions focuses on the fact that the IESF General Assembly had previously voted to lift sanctions against the RESF in August 2023.

This argument ignores the later charges brought against the RESF by the UESF and is seemingly part of the RESF's long journey to get back into IESF competitions. The RESF previously had to play under a neutral flag in 2022 while also missing out on IESF 2023 in Iași, Romania due to the host country and city taking steps to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from the event due to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

The RESF's withdrawal from IESF 2024 comes as the sixth edition of the South Korean tournament organizer's nationality-based competition is set to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with the largest prizepool to date.

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