Kiev calls on world to ban ‘Z’

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Ukraine’s foreign minister says the letter symbolizes Russia’s military offensive

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Kuleba has urged the global community to ban the Latin letter “Z” since, from Kiev’s point of view, it represents Russia’s military attack on the country.

“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,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. He added that ‘Z’ means “Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians” and said that “public support of this barbarism must be forbidden.”

Either the letter “Z” or the letter “V” are the two symbols depicted on all vehicles of the Russian army participating in the military operation in Ukraine. In Russia, both letters have become a widespread symbol to support the Kremlin’s military offensive against Kiev. The letters are commonly used on banners and car stickers.

There are many theories about the origins of the symbol. Some commenters have joked that “V” and “Z” represent the initials of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Others have speculated that the letters signify the attachment of a particular vehicle to Russia’s Western or Eastern military detachments. 

Moscow’s Ministry of Defense gave its own explanation in an Instagram post in early March, however, hinting that “Z” stands for “victory” while “V” stands for “truth.”

Lithuanian deputies have also proposed criminalizing the letter “Z” along with the St. George ribbon, which is a Russian symbol to commemorate the Great Patriotic War.  The legislators proposed equating both with the Nazi swastika and to punish the disposal of Russian symbols with a 500-euro fine.

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© Getty Images/Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images
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Meanwhile, according to the German newspaper Bild, the letter “Z” as a symbol of Russia’s military operation has already been banned in some regions of Germany, including Berlin, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.

Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev says the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the Donbass by force.

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