Russian gymnast wearing pro-invasion 'Z' symbol finishes behind Ukrainian rival on podium

During the Gymnastics World Cup, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak appeared at the medals ceremony with a "Z" on his chest seemingly in solidarity with Russia amid the Ukraine invasion, sparking outrage online - but he is not sorry about it.

The 20-year-old gymnast showed up to accept his bronze medal for parallel bars with a white "Z" tapped to his chest while standing next to gold medal winner Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun.

The "Z" has been heavily associated with the pro-Russian movement. Russian tanks have bore the letter on tanks and supporters of Vladimir Putin have worn clothing with the letter as well.

Following the shocking medal ceremony, Kuliak received intense backlash for his decision.

However, when speaking to Russian news outlet, In Russia, Kuliak said his decision was justified because his Ukrainian colleague was rude and tried to get him kicked out of the tournament. This claim has not been confirmed.

"If there was a second chance and I would again have to choose whether to go out with the letter Z on my chest or not, I would do exactly the same," Kuliak said.

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The Russian news outlet painted Kuliak as a victim of an innocent gesture to promote peace, which is what the "Z" is being marketed as in Russia.

Recently, the Russian government has banned independent news organizations and social media sites from spreading information about the war in Ukraine. Online vigilante group, Anonymous, has attempted several times to hack into Russian broadcasts to provide real footage of the Russian invasion.

the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) issued a statement on Monday suspending all Russian and Belarusian athletes, judges, and officials from participating in any FIG competition onward.

Prior to this statement, FIG had allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate so long as the countries' flags were not displayed.

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