WePlay casters leave Ukraine over fears of potential Russian invasion, with UK’s James Banks and others departing the country

uk casters flee ukraine weplay

Some of the broadcast talent working on the WePlay CSGO Academy League Season 3 in Ukraine left the broadcast early amidst fears of a potential invasion from Russia.

UK casters JustHarry and Hugo Byron, as well as US analyst Mauisnake, brought their flights forward and left the finals broadcast early, while Norwegian analyst vENdetta and UK host James Banks left a little later, after the broadcast.

Some of the broadcast talent – JustHarry, Hugo Byron and Mauisnake – then travelled to IEM Katowice 2022 where they are part of the CSGO caster line-up.

Russia’s potential attack on Ukraine has dominated mainstream news headlines this week, and while Moscow has said it’s sending some miliary units back, the threat of Russia invading Ukraine is still a possibility.

James Banks also added in a separate statement on Twitter: “Leaving Kyiv isn’t a decision I’ve taken lightly – Kyiv is my home and I’ve been here since 2019 but I’m leaving to return to London until the situation gets better.

“To all my Ukranian friends, colleagues and followers, I feel bad leaving people I care about behind, but there isn’t much I can do. All advice from our governments is to leave but stay strong, stay positive and let’s hope that this bullshit ends and we can return to our normal lives. Love to you all.”

James also spoke about being with his son again and is working on a solution to get streaming from the UK too.

“All advice from our governments is to leave Ukraine, but stay strong, stay positive and let’s hope that this bullshit ends and we can return to our normal lives. Love to you all.”

James Banks

UK caster Tombizz, who wasn’t part of the WePlay broadcast but lives in Ukraine, has also returned to England:

UK Dota 2 caster and former coach TeaGuvnor has done the same:

The WePlay CSGO Academy League offers a chance for academy teams from some of the world’s top esports organisations to prove themselves. Mouz won the Season 3 finals, giving them back-to-back-to-back wins.

The Season 3 LAN was due to take place at the WePlay Esports Arena in Kyiv from February 11th to 13th 2022.

However, WePlay took the decision to make the playoff finals online-only, with teams playing remotely.

WePlay added in a statement on its website recently: “The geopolitical issue on the Ukrainian borders, which has been going on for several weeks, causes a lot of concern. The uncontrolled epidemiological situation with COVID-19 in the world, the daily introduction of new restrictions on international transportation also make logistics especially difficult.

“The safety of tournament participants, our employees and all stakeholders was, is and will be our priority.”

It’s not the first time casters have had to leave a country due to a serious non-esports situation or other outside circumstances. Back in early 2020 when the Covid outbreak first began, LPL English esports casters Munchables, Hysterics and others flew home from China due to fears around the coronavirus.

More James Banks content: James Banks interviews Fnatic Mezii for Esports News UK, powered by MSI

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