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30th Mar 2022

Ukraine calls on nation to criminalise pro-Russian ‘Z’ symbol

April Curtin

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 25: Windows of Moscow city hall form the Z letter - the symbol of Russian troops fighting in Ukraine, in central Moscow on March 25, 2022 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

The letter ‘Z’ has quickly become a symbol of aggression

Displaying the pro-Russian “Z” symbol in public could be made illegal in Germany – and other nations are being called upon to do the same.

The letter “Z” has become a Russian symbol of patriotism and aggression after it was first spotted on tanks and trucks coming into Ukraine in the build up to the invasion.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak brought the symbol even further into the spotlight earlier in March when he took to the podium during a World Cup event in Doha – the letter ‘Z’ clearly displayed on his vest.

A number of other pro-war politicians, influencers, and activists have shared photos of themselves proudly wearing the letter “Z” but countries such as Germany are now looking to take action against it.

Berlin has become the latest region in the country to try and punish those who use the symbol, following announcements by Bavaria and Lower Saxony that they would be making it a criminal act.

Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba is now calling on all states to criminalise it.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 18: A souvenir vendor displays T-shirts with the letter Z, which is the symbol of Russian troops fighting in Ukraine on March 18, 2022 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

Writing on Twitter yesterday, he said: “I call on all states to criminalize the use of the ‘Z’ symbol as a way to publicly support Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

“‘Z’ means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians. Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden.”

Already, other countries are following suit. A vote is due to be made in Lithuania’s parliament this week and if it passes, anyone who violates the ban on the “Z” could face a fine of up to 500 euros.

The German Interior Ministry have confirmed that security services are aware the symbol is being used at rallies in Germany. On Monday, a spokesperson for the ministry said the letter can, under certain circumstances, be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and could make people “criminally liable.”

“The letter Z as such is of course not forbidden, but its use may in individual cases constitute an endorsement of the Russian war of aggression,” the spokesperson said, as reported by ITV.

“The Russian war of aggression on the Ukraine is a criminal act, and whoever publicly approves of this war of aggression can also make himself liable to prosecution,” they added.

A giant 'Z' symbol is set on the building of Moscow's Oleg Tabakov Theatre, whose artistic director is Vladimir Putin's supporter Vladimir Mashkov, on March, 29 (Credit: Getty)

It is unclear exactly when the letter “Z” became significant amongst Russian forces. The symbol has previously been spotted on Russian tanks in the Syrian civil war.

Russia’s use of the letter “Z” can also appear confusing given that it does not even exist in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet. However there are a number of reasons circulating why this specific letter is likely to have been chosen.

Read more about Russia’s use of the letter “Z” and what it means.

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