Russian Gymnast Explains His Reasoning for Wearing ‘War Symbol’ Next to Ukrainian Athlete


The Russian gymnast who wore a ‘Z’ symbol while standing next to a Ukrainian athlete has spoken out about his decision and admitted that he would in fact, do it again, given the choice.

Ivan Kuliak, a 20-year-old athlete from Obninsk in Russia, finished third on the parallel bars at the World Cup event in Doha, Qatar. The Ukrainian star Illia Kovtun took home the gold.

During the presentation of the medals, Kuliak could be seen on the podium with a ‘Z’ symbol clearly taped to his chest as well as having worn it during his performance.

The symbol is hugely controversial as it was seen painted onto the sides of Russian tanks and military vehicles during the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Gymnastics Federations (FIG) has placed the 20-year-old under a ban due to his actions, an investigation is now taking place.

The FIG making a statement:

“It will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Kuliak following his shocking behavior.”

Although the athlete appears to be sticking to his original stance, telling Russia Today:

“If there was a second chance and I had a choice whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do the same.”

“I saw it on our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out to be ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace’. I just wanted to show my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and play for peace.”

Currently, Russian athletes are not allowed to compete under their own countries flag or have the Russian anthem played.

The International Gymnastics Federations also announced that from the 7th March, no Russian or Belarusian gymnasts or officials will be allowed at any international competitions, indefinitely.

Oleg Verniaiev, a Ukrainian gymnast, shared an Instagram post after Kuliaks’ obvious message was spotted, writing:

“Of course, you will excuse me, but let the Russians not shout that sport is out of politics!

“Congratulations to our guy [the Ukrainian winner], everything is in its place glory to Ukraine.”

We congratulate Illia Kovtun on his gold medal.


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