Irina Shayk is a Russian model who lives in New York. She’s lived in Europe, in LA and New York for many, many years. She gave birth to her daughter Lea in America, making Lea an American citizen by birth, and I wonder if Irina has ever sought American citizenship or even received American citizenship. All that being said, Irina has spoken about going home to Russia to visit friends and family, and she doesn’t talk much about the politics of Russia or America. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many Russians living abroad posted vague messages about “no war” and “peace.” While I would have appreciated more specific statements from Russian celebrities, I also understand that most Russians living abroad still have families back in Russia, families who can be hurt or murdered by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Which means that beyond vague social media posts about “no war,” most Russians are just keeping their mouths shut in general. Not Irina. Irina thought it would be a good idea to post something very curious to her IG Stories, and people are taking it as a pro-Putin statement:
Irina Shayk is seeing backlash after posting an Instagram Story of what appears to be a simple potato salad. However, the model captioned the photo, “Russianzz on Wednaday,” which some social media users have taken as a message of support for the Russian military amid the war with Ukraine.
According to NPR, the origin of the usage of the letter “Z” in the Russian war against Ukraine is still unclear, but the letter has been seen painted on military vehicles and used as a symbol of support for the Russian military. Specifically, the letter has become synonymous with support for Russia during the ongoing conflict with Ukraine both there and back in Russia.
The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement in March, per Fortune, saying that the “Z” stood for Za pobedu, or “For victory,” however it’s worth noting that the letter “Z” doesn’t appear in the Russian alphabet, making the full story hard to pinpoint.
Shayk’s intentions with her Instagram Story was deleted and eventually reposted with no caption; however, in another Instagram Story posted Friday evening, she appeared to clear up the confusion, writing, “Sometimes a salad is just a salad. I promise, no coded messages or political commentary here. Wishing everyone love.”
In February, the Russian model posted a peace symbol to her Instagram, writing, “No To War.” She also wrote that she’d be donating to UNICEF and the Red Cross in Ukraine.
The Internet appears to be divided on their opinions relating to Shayk’s picture, taking to Twitter to discuss. Ukrainian journalist Maria Romanenko called out the model on Twitter, along with brands who have worked with her, writing, “Irina Shayk—world-famous model from Russia who’s recently worked for @Beyonce, Jean Paul Gaultier, @Burberry, &others—posted a weird cryptic story on Instagram with the word ‘Russianzz’. I really hope these brands reconsider working with her when Russia uses Z to kill Ukrainians.”
Having read many of Irina’s interviews over the years, she’s never struck me as a particularly politically active person, or someone who would choose to promote pro-Putin propaganda or anything like that. Her sensibilities are Russian, but her politics are ambivalent Euro-American émigré/model. But I could be wrong! I’m sometimes surprised by just how many Russians are actually, not-so-secretly very pro-Putin and how little it has to do with threats against their families back home. For Shayk in particular, I think this deserves closer inspection. A “promise” that there are no coded messages isn’t really good enough. There’s a healthy debate online about this too. I don’t have an answer. I would appreciate it if Irina made her position a lot clearer. This isn’t random gossip – she posted that sh-t on her public Instagram profile.
Irina Shayk—world-famous model from Russia who’s recently worked for @Beyonce, Jean Paul Gaultier, @Burberry, &others—posted a weird cryptic story on Instagram with the word “Russianzz”. I really hope these brands reconsider working with her when Russia uses Z to kill Ukrainians. pic.twitter.com/Hv3HbKVx39
— Maria Romanenko (@rommari) July 14, 2022
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Irina’s IG Stories.