EMEA Apex Pro League restarts, upended by wartime changes

Ukrainians and Russians make up the majority of the league and boast many of the best players.

Screengrab via Respawn Entertainment

The EMEA Apex Legends Pro League, which was paused during the outbreak of war in Ukraine, will restart today. It will be run on a truncated schedule that squeezes the entire second split into six consecutive days of play. But the demanding competitive schedule is among the least disruptive changes to a pro scene that has been upended by the war.

As the second half of the league begins, Ukrainian Apex pros are playing on borrowed setups far from home. A few players, like GMT’s Maksym “Max-Strafe” Stadniuk, a resident of Kyiv, have evacuated to Lviv, in the western part of Ukraine. The city is near the Polish border and is considered safer than Kyiv, but even Lviv has come under attack from the Russian military. Pros in Lviv will compete with the threat of missiles flying overhead.

On March 16, all pros who were registered as residents of Russia or Belarus were notified by the ALGS administration that they would be banned from playing unless they left the country. They were given until March 20 to declare that they would be competing from another country or else forfeit their spot. Nearly a quarter of the EMEA Pro League teams are Russian, by far the largest nationality represented in the region. Understandably, many Russian players were not able to leave the country or could not afford it, particularly on such short notice. Seven Russian Pro League teams were unable to make the tight deadline work. Amateur teams who had initially missed the qualification for the Pro League have filled the empty spots.

Russian players who were able to leave the country have flown to Kazakhstan or Turkey to compete, borrowing PCs from friends or connections in the esports world willing to offer help. Still, the improvised travel plans and lack of preparation do not make for ideal playing conditions. Some of these teams, like ZETA, have been split over international borders. They are able to compete, but one player is in Kazakhstan, one is in Turkey, and another is in Poland. Russian pro Elvira “Esdesu” Temirova, a vocal critic of EA’s new policy and the short notice before its implementation, was able to fly to Turkey with her teammate and boyfriend, Anton “xaniya” Shkuratov, joining the growing community of Apex pros there. But she told Dot Esports on March 17 that their third player was unable to leave Russia at the moment.

As the war in Ukraine continues, EMEA pro Apex will continue to be impacted. Its Ukrainian players are now refugees, living under the shadow of war. And the large and talented Russian Apex scene will struggle for the foreseeable future, banned from the game many of them consider their career.