Germany could prosecute people who use pro-Russia Z symbol

FILE - A family walk past a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sign reading 'Go Russia!' St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, March 11, 2022
FILE - A family walk past a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sign reading 'Go Russia!' St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, March 11, 2022 Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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Authorities in Germany are considering whether to prosecute anyone who uses the Z symbol in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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German authorities are considering whether to prosecute people who use the Z symbol to show support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the last month, the Z symbol has become a common sight on Russian military vehicles, displayed on pro-Russia social media accounts, plastered on private cars and trucks, and printed on t-shirts and hoodies.

It's been seen on all sorts of official Russian state propaganda and was prominently displayed at a recent rally attended by Vladimir Putin and tens of thousands of cheering spectators at a football stadium in Moscow.

On Monday Germany's Interior Ministry said that security services are aware the symbol is also being used at rallies in Germany.

Spokesperson Marek Wede told reporters in Berlin that the letter can under certain circumstances be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine is a crime and whoever publicly approves of this war can thereby become criminally liable,” Wede said.

He added that federal authorities welcomed announcements by some German states to investigate whether individual instances of the “Z” use constitute criminal acts.

Ramil Sitdikov/Pool Sputnik Host Photo Agency
People wave Russian national flags and flags with the letter Z at a stadium in Moscow, Friday 18 March 2022Ramil Sitdikov/Pool Sputnik Host Photo Agency

Trying to explain Russia's new Z symbol

Two MPs in Lithuania recently called on the government to ban pro-Russia displays which use the Z symbol, with a black and orange ribbon, and say there should be fines of €500 for breaking the law.

So what does the Z symbol mean?

Written in the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic, experts aren't quite sure of its exact meaning - and it's likely the people using the Z symbol also don't know for sure, even if they do understand implicitly what it stands for.

"For now, it's less clear what it is than how it is being used," said Donnacha Ó Beacháin, a professor at Dublin City University who specialises in post-Soviet politics.

"Some think of Z as Za pobedy (for victory) while others think it might be Zapad (West). All the stranger, because the letter Z doesn’t exist in the Russian alphabet" he adds.

Russia's defence ministry has confused things somewhat by posting on its official Instagram and Telegram pages that Z stands for: "Za Pobedu" ("for victory"), "Za Mir" ("for peace"), "Za pravdu" ("for truth"), and "Za Rossiou" ("for Russia").

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