Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova was seen posing with a pro-war ‘Z’ symbol at Russia’s Victory Day Parade. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the parade to justify his military invasion of Ukraine. Melnikova won the gold at the Tokyo Olympics as well as individual bronze medals in the all-around and floor exercise. She attended the festivities in Moscow, which commemorates Russia’s victory over the Nazis during World War 2.
This year, the celebrations increased as a pro-ally and an opportunity for President Putin to justify Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. The 21-year-old gymnast alongside a Russian military veteran looked upon the Red Square procession, as she posted on her Instagram stories. In one such story, Melnikova can be seen holding a red paper with a gold ‘Z’, which has now become synonymous with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while standing alongside a military veteran.
“A campaign for those who are not ashamed to be Russian”
The star gymnast is not the first Russian athlete that has been seen publicly supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Retired Russian gymnast Svetlana Kohrkina, who was a seven-time Olympic medallist between 2996 and 2004 has shared pictures that include the ‘Z’ symbol and included the caption: “A campaign for those who are not ashamed to be Russian”.
Russian Ivan Kuliak, who won bronze on the parallel bars at the 2022 FIG Artistic Gymnastics at Qatar, wore a ‘Z’ on his chest while standing next to his Ukrainian opponent. The International Gymnastics Federation subsequently opened an investigation into Kuliak’s ‘shocking behaviour’. However, the 20-year-old blamed his Ukrainian opponents for the move and said that he would ‘do it again’ if he had the chance.
Russian athletes have already faced several repercussions of the military invasion. Several top sports governing bodies and top competitions across the world have banned Russian and well as Belarusian athletes have been banned from participating in major events. Russia was recently banned from hosting a figure skating event, the Rostelecom Cup.