Russian Gymnast Reprimanded After Wearing 'Z' Symbol Next to Ukrainian Athlete

·3-min read
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak stands on the podium
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak stands on the podium

Claro Sports

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is calling for disciplinary action after a Russian athlete wore a "Z" symbol next to a Ukrainian athlete after a competition.

The incident took place at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, when Ivan Kuliak was seen with a "Z" — a symbol seemingly being used to show support for Russian's ongoing invasion of Ukraine — displayed on his chest as he took the podium following a bronze win on the parallel bars, CNN reported. Ukraine's Illia Kovtun, who won gold, was also on the podium.

In a statement following the incident, the FIG confirmed "that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against" Kuliak, 20, "following his shocking behavior at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar."

The group also said it "adopted further measures against Russia and Belarus" on Friday — namely, that athletes and judges from those two countries "are not allowed to take part in FIG competitions or FIG-sanctioned competitions."

Vasily Titov, head of the Artistic Gymnastics Federation of Russia (FSGR), told Russian outlet Moskovskij Komsomolets (MK) on Monday that he didn't believe Kuliak "wanted to make a special demonstration, but we will support him in any case," according to CNN's translated citation of the article posted on FSGR's website.

A protester holds a "Z" sign banner
A protester holds a "Z" sign banner

Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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Titov added, per CNN, "It was a violation of the uniform approved by the FIG. I think that they can punish, they can also remove us from participation. But we were already removed."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. More than a million Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of many accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

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The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin, 69, insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy, 44, vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," Zelenskyy told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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