World War Z: What is the meaning of the Russian propaganda symbol?

The letter “Z” became a prominent propaganda symbol during Russia’s attack on Ukraine, drawing comparisons to the swastikas worn by Nazi soldiers during World War II.

At the start of the Russian invasion, the letter – which does not exist in the Russian alphabet – was inexplicably painted on the back of its tanks and other vehicles.

In the more than two weeks that followed, supporters of the invasion adopted the “Z” as their logo to wear their support on their sleeves.

The origin of the letter’s connection to the war is murky, according to Kamil Galeev, a Galina Starovoitova Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center who has been compiling photos of the symbol on Twitter from before the invasion began.

“Some interpret ‘Z’ as ‘Za pobedy’ (for victory). Others – like “Zapad” (West),” Galeev explained.

“Anyway, this symbol invented just a few days ago has become a symbol of the new Russian ideology and national identity.”

Experts first speculated that the marking indicated where a military unit was heading before deployment in order to distinguish it and reduce the risk of friendly fire.

“It is vital that any attacking force can be distinguished, especially from the air where Russian forces will have full control,” said a source in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. The sun.

“The Ukrainians have very similar tanks and vehicles and will want to reduce the risk of friendly fire.”

Michael Clarke, former director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defense think tank, told Sky News the symbols are likely to be linked to the geographic location where units would be deployed for combat.

“Often these symbols will be location-based – they will indicate where a unit is heading. If they were only going to mark vehicles as Russian, you could just use one symbol,” Clarke said.

A serviceman of pro-Russian troops in uniform without insignia walks past a truck with the “Z” symbol painted on the side in the separatist-controlled settlement of Rybinskoye during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 5 March


But now that the invasion is well under way, the letter “Z” has taken on new meaning, according to Mr Galeev.

“To put it simply, it’s getting completely fascist,” he wrote in a Twitter thread on Sunday.

“The authorities have launched a propaganda campaign to gain popular support for their invasion of Ukraine and they are getting a lot of it.”

The thread included several photos of civilians and cars with the markings.

“Putin made the decision to start this war. But he got broad support from the Russian people,” he wrote. “Nobody is forcing them to take part in these demonstrations of support, they could totally do without it. But they applaud. They applaud, because they feel good, they feel proud. Russia has become great again.

Merchandise bearing the letter “Z” is being sold online by Russia Today, with proceeds believed to be donated to a charity that supports “children of war”. Amazon also appears to be selling similar items, according to The temperature.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak used the symbol to show his support for the invasion on Saturday, when he wore it as he accepted a bronze medal at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha on Saturday.

The stunt was made even more shocking by the fact that Kuliak was next to Ukraine’s Kovtun Illia, who won gold.

The International Gymnastics Federation said it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak stands in a shirt that shows the letter Z to receive his bronze medal


And in the Russian city of Kazan, children at a hospice were apparently forced to stand outside in the snow, lined up in a ‘Z’ line to show their support.

The propaganda stunt filmed by a drone is said to have been organized by Vladimir Vavilov, president of a cancer charity which runs the hospice.

Mr Vavilov said 60 attendees – including patients and staff – held a hand in a fist and leaflets with the flags of Russia, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR ) and the Russian republic of Tatarstan in the other.

Children at a hospice form a ‘Z’ formation to show support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

(Kamil Galeev via Twitter)

Several politicians have also donned clothing and badges with the badge, including Mikhail Delyagin and Maria Butina.

Ms Butina, who was convicted in the United States for acting as a foreign agent in 2018, posted a photo of her and her colleagues wearing ‘Z’ t-shirts with the caption: ‘The team in support of our army and our president! Get to work guys!”

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