Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak says he has no regrets about wearing ‘Z’ symbol on podium next to Ukrainian athlete – state media
The 20-year-old was condemned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for his “shocking behavior” at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, last weekend.
The ‘Z’ insignia has been displayed on tanks and vehicles used by the Russian military in its Ukraine operations and has since become a symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine.
Propaganda videos on social media appear to show supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing clothing featuring the ‘Z’ symbol, waving Russian flags and chanting pro-Russia slogans.
“If there was a second chance and I would again have to choose whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do exactly the same,” Kuliakis quoted as saying in Russia-controlled media outlet Russia Today.
“I saw it with our military and looked at what this symbol means. It turned out [it means], ‘for victory’ and ‘for peace.’
“I didn’t wish anything bad on anyone, I just showed my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and stand for peace.”
Having received expressions of support from the head of his sport’s governing body in Russia, the Artistic Gymnastics Federation of Russia (FSGR), Vasily Titov, Kuliak says he was annoyed by the Ukrainian athletes when they displayed their national flag at the event in Doha.
The FIG confirmed in a statement it would ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) to open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak. The GEF told CNN that it couldn’t comment on pending or potential cases as a matter of procedure.