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.
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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.”
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There are several replies to Romanenko’s tweet discussing whether or not Shayk’s message may have had a motive, with fans going both directions. One person pointed out how common it is to pluralize words with a “z” instead of an “s,” with another adding their opinion that this is simply “informal language.” Yet another reply noted that “letters are f—— letters” and shared concern with the amount of bullying Shayk would take from this post that may not have meant anything.
Other commenters doubled down with Romanenko, though, tagging the brands Shayk, 36, has worked with and asking them to reconsider working with her. Some commenters even called for Shayk to be canceled over this Instagram Story.
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Though commenters couldn’t publicly share their opinions on Shayk’s Instagram Story on the social media platform, they have been able to comment on her recent posts, which many have done. Similarly to Twitter, the opinions are split, with some calling her out and some defending her. And just like Twitter, people are asking brands Shayk has recently worked with to reconsider.
Shayk has famously worked with brands like Victoria’s Secret, Intimissimi, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Guess and many more. She even appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue in 2011 — the first Russian model to do so.