Russian Gymnast Wears Pro-War ‘Z’ Symbol Standing Next to Ukrainian Athlete

Ivan Kuliak taped the letter “Z” on the front of his shirt – a symbol that some Russians have adopted to show their support for the invasion.
Dipo Faloyin
London, GB
Ivan Kuliak at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha
Ivan Kuliak at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha. Screengrab courtesy of 

The International Gymnastics Federation

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has called for Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak to be punished after he appeared to show support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while competing at an event on Saturday. 

Kuliak, 20, had the letter “Z” taped on the front of his shirt as he took part in the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha. Kuliak even wore it as he appeared on the podium next to the Ukrainian gymnast Kovtun Illia, who won the gold. 


The letter Z has appeared on Russian tanks and other artillery vehicles in different forms throughout the war in Ukraine, such as in the middle of a square or at the top of a triangle. The symbol is believed to both denote the vehicle as Russian as well as signal the specific mission of its unit. Some Russians have adopted it to show their support for the invasion. 

“The International Gymnastics Federation confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Kuliak following his shocking behaviour at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar,” the FIG said in a statement.

On top of whatever personal sanction Kuliak receives, the sport’s main governing body has already announced that all “Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges” will be banned indefinitely from taking part in all future FIG competitions.