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Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak is expected to be investigated after displaying a symbol supporting the invasion of Ukraine on his uniform.
Kuliak taped the “Z” symbol – seen on Russian tanks and military vehicles in Ukraine and adopted by war supporters – on his vest for a medal ceremony at a World Cup this weekend in Doha, Qatar.
He won bronze on parallel bars and stood next to a gold medalist from Ukraine.
Although the letter does not exist in the Russian alphabet, the symbol is quickly emerging as a way for Russians, following “a propaganda campaign”, to show their support for the invasion of Ukraine and to rally around a new nationalism, said one expert.
Some defense experts say the markings are a way for Russian troops to avoid friendly fire by distinguishing their military equipment from that of Ukraine, which has similar-looking tanks, according to Task & Purpose, a news outlet. American covering military issues.
The International Gymnastics Federation, known as the FIG, denounced Kuliak’s “shocking behaviour” and pledged to ask its Independent Integrity Unit to investigate.
“We can confirm that [FIG] informed us that they will formally request the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against male artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak,” the AEDT Gymnastics Ethics Foundation said on Tuesday.
Kuliak, 20, was able to compete in Qatar as the ban on all gymnasts and officials from Russia and Belarus only came into effect on Monday. The Russian flag had already been excluded from his uniform by an earlier FIG decision.
Kuliak, a former national junior all-around champion who did not compete at the Tokyo Olympics, now faces a ban under the FIG Disciplinary Code. The code allows gymnasts to be sanctioned for acts that “behave in an offensive manner”, “harm the image of gymnastics” or “show unsportsmanlike behaviour”.
AP, Washington Post