The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has criticized the “shocking behavior” of Russian athlete Ivan Kuliak at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar.
The FIG did not give details about the behavior they condemned, but the statement came after the 20-year-old gymnast wore a ‘Z’ symbol taped to his leotard while standing next to Ukrainian athlete Illia Kovtun on the podium – Kovtun won gold and Kuliak picked up bronze in the parallel bars on Saturday.
The organization that oversees Russian gymnasts acknowledged in a statement that Kuliak’s display violated FIG rules, but expressed the organization’s support for his actions.
The ‘Z’ insignia has been displayed on tanks and vehicles used by the Russian military in its Ukraine operations and has since become a symbol of support for the invasion of Ukraine.
Propaganda videos on social media appear to show supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing clothing featuring the ‘Z’ symbol, waving Russian flags and chanting pro-Russia slogans.
“The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Ivan Kuliak following his shocking behavior at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar,” a Sunday statement from the gymnastics governing body read.
On Monday, Head of the Artistic Gymnastics Federation of Russia (FSGR) Vasily Titov told Russian publication MK that Kuliak has the governing body’s full support. FSGR quoted the article on its official website.
“I don’t think that Ivan wanted to make a special demonstration, but we will support him in any case,” he said.
“It was a violation of the uniform approved by the FIG. I think that they can punish, they can also remove us from participation. But we were already removed.”
CNN has reached out to the FSGR but has yet to receive a response.
The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation told CNN that it couldn’t comment on pending or potential cases as a matter of procedure.
In a statement on Friday, the FIG announced that, starting March 7, Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, would not be allowed to take part in official FIG-sanctioned competitions following advice from the International Olympic Committee who recommended a ban last week.
It comes as the United Nations estimates that more than 1.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since February 24. Ukraine and Russia are scheduled to hold a third round of talks Monday, according to negotiators, as fighting continues across the country.