Viktoriya Güneş received criticism from Russian swimmers after posting a picture standing on their country's flag ©Getty Images

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has called on athletes to "behave with dignity and respect" after Ukrainian-born swimmer Viktoriya Güneş sparked criticism by posting a photograph standing on a Russian flag.

Güneş, who competes for Turkey and clinched 400 metres gold at last year’s European Short Course Championships, published a picture on her Instagram account showing two feet on Russia’s flag which led to an angry reaction from Russian swimmers.

The 23-year-old began her swimming career competing under the name Viktoria Solnceva.

She achieved European and world junior titles in 2013 while representing Ukraine before competing for Turkey at the 2015 World Junior Championships where she claimed four golds.

Her provocative post of the Russian flag comes at a time where Russia continues its military assault on Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine aided by Belarus has resulted in athletes from both countries being banned by FINA from its competitions.

According to SwimSwam, Russian swimmers Vladislav Grinev and Tatiana Belongoff both posted the same message on their Instagram stories where they called for action to be taken against Günes in response to her post.

"Where are the boundaries of the permitted behavior of athletes?," the message read.

"If you decide that it is humane to remove Russian athletes from participation in international competitions, then take action here as well.

"Nationalism is UNACCEPTABLE in any form."

Vladislav Grinev posted a message in response to Viktoriya Güneş' picture ©Vladislav Grinev
Vladislav Grinev posted a message in response to Viktoriya Güneş' picture ©Vladislav Grinev

Kliment Kolesnikov, who competed alongside Günes for Energy Standard in the International Swimming League, also reacted to her post on Instagram with an emoji of a man shrugging his shoulders in between two question marks.

In response to Günes’ post, FINA has released a statement encouraging competitors to act respectfully.

"FINA is aware of the social media post attributed to Victoria Gunes, an aquatics athlete born in Ukraine who formerly competed for Ukraine," the statement from FINA read.

"FINA encourages all aquatics athletes to behave with dignity and respect."

Russian and Belarusian athletes had been allowed to compete as neutrals, with the FINA claiming that it had a legally robust option to exclude them "if their attendance threatens the safety and wellbeing of athletes or places the conduct of competition at risk".

The governing body for aquatics sport then agreed on March 23 to ban athletes from the two nations from competing in any of its events following a review of an independent risk assessment.

Several countries had threatened to boycott this year’s World Championships in Budapest if athletes from Russia and Belarus competed in the Hungarian capital.