Two German states — Lower Saxony and Bavaria –have outlawed public displays of the “Z” symbol used by the Russians in their invasion of Ukraine.
Anyone who brandishes the symbol at demonstrations or paints it on cars or buildings in a show of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war could risk up to three years in jail or a fine.
“It is incomprehensible to me how this symbol ‘Z’ could be used in our country to condone this crime,” said Lower Saxony’s interior minister Boris Pistorius.
Russian tanks, artillery and trucks sporting mysterious markings were first spotted as they were rolling towards Ukraine, just before the invasion. These markings include ‘Z’ painted on their sides, either by itself or enclosed by a white triangle, square or circle. Other symbols — such as a white triangle with two lines on either side, red triangles, white circles, white triangles and white slashes — have also been spotted on some of the vehicles.
Russian Su-34 fighters made the “Z” over Ukrainian skies recently. MiG Corporation employees and Russian supporters in Donbass lined up in the symbolic “Z” as a show of support twice.
The Russian Defense Ministry posted on Instagram that the symbol came from the Russian word За победу, which begins with a “Z” and means “for victory.”
The “Z” sign has now become ubiquitous on cars on the streets of Moscow, clothing and across social media profiles on the Russian internet — a trend the Russian authorities are eager to encourage.
“Sympathizers who use the symbol ‘Z’ of Russian forces in Bavaria must know that they may be liable to prosecution for approving criminal acts,” Bavaria’s Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich noted. “We will not allow violations of international law to be condoned,” added.
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