A Russian gymnast is facing the wrath of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and wider public after displaying the pro-Russian “Z” symbol adopted by Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine, while he stood on a podium at a World Cup competition in Doha on Sunday.
Ivan Kuliak, the 20-year-old Russian competitor who finished third in the parallel bars final at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, used his exposure on the podium to promote the ‘Z’ symbol as he stood next to Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun, who won the gold medal.
Much of the international community, including the FIG, condemned Kuliak’s actions and called for a disciplinary hearing to be launched against him.
“The International Gymnastics Federation confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against … Kuliak following his shocking behavior at the Apparatus World Cup,” the organization said in a statement.
The FIG subsequently confirmed that “from March 7, 2022, Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, are not allowed to take part in FIG competitions or FIG-sanctioned competitions.”
The move has sparked calls from the wider public to ban all Russian athletes from competitive sporting events for the foreseeable future.
The ‘Z’ symbol has only recently been adopted by a number of Russians to allegedly represent support for the invasion of Ukraine, although no official explanation has been offered to ascertain its meaning.
The ‘Z’ has been prominently displayed on a plethora of Russian military vehicles, and subsequently been used by ordinary Russians at home, choosing to display the symbol on their vehicles and their clothing.
Maria Butina, a Russian political activist who made headlines in 2018 when she was convicted of acting as an unregistered Russian agent on U.S. soil, has been seen drawing the symbol on her suit jacket in a video posted online.
Many Russian nationalists and pro-Putin politicians have also been displaying the symbol on clothing and flags during pro-war rallies held across the country.