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Russian gymnast banned for wearing ‘Z’ war symbol

Ivan Kuliak wore the z symbol to the podium


A Russian gymnast who taped a ‘Z’ war symbol to his chest while sharing the podium with his Ukrainian rival has been banned from competing for a year.

Ivan Kuliak, 20, wore the symbol which has come to represent support for Putin’s war on Ukraine while receiving a bronze medal in the parallel bars at a gymnastics world cup event in Qatar back in March.

Standing just a few feet away was Ukrainian athlete Ivan Kuliak, who won gold.

The International Gymnastics Federation has now ruled that Kuliak breached multiple codes by wearing the symbol, and will be banned from competing for at least a year.

The ban will last until May 2023 unless rules forbidding the wearing of Russian flags and playing of the anthem – put in place in reaction to the war – are still in place.

The letter Z does not exist in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet. Some have interpreted it as standing for ‘Za pobedy’ (for victory), others for ‘Zapad’ (West).

If the restrictions are still in place, then the ban will continue until six months after they are lifted.

Kuliak has also been disqualified from the World Cup, must return his bronze medal, and must repay his prize money of around £400.

Valentina Rodionenko, the head of the Russian World Cup delegation, and Igor Kalabushkin, the coach, were not found to have breached the rules and charged against them were dropped.

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Days after Kuliak caused the furore, the gymnast said he had no regrets and would do the same again.

He told 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.



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