Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak: ‘No regrets for the symbol supporting the invasion of Ukraine’

A Ukrainian flag and ribbons of support on a turnstile

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak says he has no regrets wearing a symbol of support for Ukraine’s invasion on the podium after a World Cup in Doha on Saturday.

Kuliak strapped a “Z” on her chest before receiving her bronze medal in the parallel bars, an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun. The letter was seen plastered on the sides of Russian tanks and became a sign of support for the invasion.

The 20-year-old’s decision has been called “shocking behavior” by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which has asked its Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open an investigation.

But Kuliak, who faces the prospect of a lengthy ban, was unrepentant on Tuesday, telling Russia Today: “If there was a second chance and I had the choice 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 up 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 I will play for peace.

Ahead of the Doha event, the FIG announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials would be banned from international events from March 7 until further notice, in line with global sports sanctions against the country.

Meanwhile, tennis governing bodies have united to create the ‘Tennis Plays for Peace’ campaign.

The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation and the four Grand Slam tournaments have each donated US$100,000 (just over £75,000) to humanitarian efforts through the Disaster Relief Fund. Ukrainian crisis of Global Giving and the Ukrainian Tennis Federation.

The Wimbledon Foundation has also made donations to the British Red Cross and the Disaster Emergency Committee.

Ribbons in the colors of the Ukrainian flag will be distributed to players at the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open, which begins on Wednesday.

Ukrainian number one Elina Svitolina and recently retired player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who returned to Ukraine to join the reserve army, also made a short video with a message of hope for their country.

Andy Murray also pledged strong support, announcing he will donate his award for the rest of the year to help war-affected children.

The father-of-four, who is an ambassador for Unicef ​​UK, is working with the charity to help provide medical supplies and education kits.

James V. Hayes