‘If there was a second chance… I would do the SAME’: Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak insists he DOESN’T regret wearing a national war symbol on the World Cup podium in support of the invasion of Ukraine
- Ivan Kuliak sported the ‘Z’ symbol on his chest after a World Cup event in Doha
- The letter has come to be regarded as a sign of support for Russia’s invasion
- However, Kuliak has now insisted he does not regret his controversial move
- Speaking to Russia Today, he even revealed he would wear the symbol again
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak says he has no regrets over wearing a symbol in support of the invasion of Ukraine on the podium following a World Cup event in Doha on Saturday.
Kuliak attached a letter ‘Z’ to his chest before receiving his bronze medal in the parallel bars, an event won by Ukraine’s Illia Kovtun.
The letter has been seen daubed on the sides of Russian tanks, and has come to be regarded as a sign of support for the invasion.
The 20-year-old’s move was condemned as ‘shocking behaviour’ by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which has asked its Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to launch 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 a choice whether 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 at 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 play for peace.’
Prior to the event in Doha, the FIG had announced that all Russian gymnasts and officials would be banned from international events from March 7 until further notice in line with global sporting sanctions against the country.
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak insists he has no regrets over wearing a national war symbol
Kuliak received military training with the Russian army last year.
The symbol on his shirt was in place of the Russian flag, which has been banned by the International Gymnastics Federation.
‘Z’ merchandise is being sold by Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded TV channel.
The Russian Defence Ministry also issued a statement saying that ‘Z’ means victory.
Kuliak was sharing the podium in Doha with first-place Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun (above)
Kuliak’s actions have been criticised by Ukraine’s 2016 Olympic parallel bars champion Oleg Verniaiev on social media.
In a post on Instagram, he wrote: ‘Of course, you will excuse me, but let the Russians not shout that sport is out of politics!
‘Congratulations to our guy, everything is in its place, glory to Ukraine.’
Last week, meanwhile, Svetlana Khorkina – a Russian gymnast who won seven Olympic medals between 1996 and 2004 – has supported the invasion.
The ‘Z’ symbol, seen on a Russian tank, has come to be seen as a symbol supporting the war
She shared the ‘Z’ symbol online, accompanied by a caption which read: ‘A campaign for those who are not ashamed to be Russian.’
Former world championship chess player Sergey Karjakin has been banned from several tournaments after comments backing his country’s aggression.
After the war reached its 13th day, Ukrainian paratroopers have begun fighting Russian special forces in hand-to-hand combat near Kyiv.
Ukrainian troops inspect a charred Russian tank that was destroyed on the outskirts of Sumy
Russian troops continue to try and encircle Kyiv ahead of what is set to be an attack on the city
Stas, a paratrooper who spoke to AFP, says Russian are now fighting street-to-street in places such as Irpin and Bucha in an attempt to surround the capital city.
‘In some places, there is hand-to-hand combat,’ Stas said. ‘There is a huge column – 200 men, 50 light armoured vehicles, several tanks,’ he said of the Russian threat.
‘We are trying to push them out, but I don’t know if we’ll be fully able to do it.’
Ukraine war: The latest
- Russia refloats plans to open humanitarian corridors. Kyiv calls the proposal a publicity stunt
- Ukrainian servicemen and fleeing residents describe ferocious fighting on Kyiv’s northwestern edge, including hand-to-hand combat
- 18 people, including two children, died in an air strike on the city of Sumy
- Ukraine’s military claims Russian general Vitaly Gerasimov is killed in fighting near Kharkiv
- Russia steps up its shelling of Gostomel near Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east, Sumy in the northeast, Chernihiv in the north and Mykolayiv in the southwest
- Tens of thousands are still trapped without water or power in the southern port of Mariupol after two failed evacuation attempts
- At least 13 people are killed by shelling at an industrial bakery in Makariv, west of Kyiv
- Nearly all of Russia’s 150,000 combat troops arrayed on Ukraine’s border have now entered the country
- The International Atomic Energy Agency receives reports of artillery shells damaging a nuclear research facility in Ukraine’s besieged second city Kharkiv
- White House says there is no agreement with European allies on a blanket ban on oil and gas imports
- The World Bank approves an additional $489million package for Ukraine, made available immediately
- Russia says it will allow Russian companies and individuals to repay debts to creditors in ‘hostile’ nations in rubles
- US-based Morgan Stanley says a Russian default on sovereign debts will come as soon as next month
- Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is not sending conscripts or reservists to fight
- Kyiv’s presidential advisor says talks with Russia brought some ‘positive results’, while Moscow’s lead negotiator said aims were ‘not fulfilled’
- Turkey announces it will host Russia’s and Ukraine’s foreign ministers for talks Thursday.
- Foreign footballers and coaches working in Russia and Ukraine will be allowed to temporarily suspend their contracts and move elsewhere, FIFA announces
- The UN says 1.7 million people have fled Ukraine, making it the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II