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Gymnast Ivan Kuliak stunned officials and fans on Sunday when he appeared to support Russian forces invading Ukraine at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar.
Kuliak, a 20-year-old artistic gymnast from Kaluga, Russia, finished in third place in the parallel bars at the event and joined Ukrainian Illia Kovtun and Kazakh Milad Karimi on the podium. Kuliak was seen sporting a “Z” on his chest in an apparent show of support for the Russian military.
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In this handout photo released by Ukrainian Emergency Service, a burnt car is seen in front of a damaged City Hall building, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP)
As Russian forces began to move into the country last month, some tanks and other vehicles were marked with a white “Z.” The symbol has been said to identify the vehicles as friendlies for Russian forces.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) condemned the apparent show of support.
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“The International Gymnastics Federation confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against male artistic gymnast Ivan Kuliak (RUS) following his shocking behavior at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar,” FIG said in a statement.
A protester holds a “Z” sign banner, in reference to Russian tanks marked with the letter, during a rally organized by Serbian right-wing organizations in support of Russian attacks on Ukraine, in Belgrade, Serbia, March 4, 2022. Around a thousand Serbian ultra-nationalist supporters marched in Belgrade in support of the Russian attacks on Ukraine. (Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“The FIG adopted further measures against Russia and Belarus on 4 March. From 7 March 2022. Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, are not allowed to take part in FIG competitions or FIG-sanctioned competitions.”
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The gymnastics federation had already condemned Russia and Belarus for the attacks.
The FIG said Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from competition indefinitely starting on March 7. There is an event set for March 10-13 in Azerbaijan.
“The FIG would like to stress that these exceptional and emergency measures are decided and issued in view of the above-mentioned extraordinary circumstances. They constitute preventive measures aiming at preserving the integrity of Gymnastics, the safety and integrity of members and all athletes and participants, and at fighting against all forms of violence and of sports injustice,” the organization said on Friday.
Ivan Kuliak wears a ‘Z’ in apparent support for Russian forces at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup.
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“Russian and Belarusian nationals who are members of the FIG Executive Committee or of FIG technical committees are not affected by this measure when acting in their capacity as FIG Authorities.”