Moscow, 9 March 2022 (dpa/MIA) — The Russian establishment is increasingly using the letter Z to symbolize its war on Ukraine.
The letter “Z” had initially only appeared on Russian tanks in Ukraine, hastily painted on the side in a slash of white.
It has come to be more widely used to show support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The letter Z can now be seen everywhere from Kremlin propaganda videos on Instagram to celebrity profiles to the uniform of a Russian athlete in Doha.
The letter stands for the phrase “For Victory,” according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. While the slogan would be written “za pobedoy” in English, the Cyrillic alphabet does not have the letter Z.
The letter Z can also be found on countless cars in Russia. Workers put a Z on a rocket ramp at Baikonur spaceport, while many celebrities have added a capital Z to their names on social media.
Moscow’s propaganda videos show young people wearing T-shirts with a Z on them, showing their support for Putin and what he calls a “special operation” that is allegedly targetting those he claims are “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine.
When Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak taped the letter Z to his jersey at the apparatus World Cup in Doha, it caused an international outcry. Kuliak, who finished third in the parallel bars, stood alongside Ukrainian winner Illia Kovtun during the victory ceremony.
Z is not the only letter being co-opted in Putin’s war. Other letters, including X, O and A have also been painted on Russian military vehicles. V often appears, and stands for “The power lies in the truth,” or “sila v pravde,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The quote is from “Brat 2”, or “Brother,” a popular film from 2000.
It remains unclear what the other letters stand for and many have sought explanations since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began nearly two weeks ago.
Initially, Ukrainian observers thought the letters indicated where the troops had come from.
Now, Ukraine’s armed forces have also started painting around the letter Z on the Russian tanks they manage to capture. Many have written crude insults such as “Putinu pizdez” on tanks they have put out of action.