How the letter ‘Z’ became a pro-war symbol in Russia

Digital investigators have speculated about what the letter “Z”, written in the Roman alphabet instead of Cyrillic, might indicate about Moscow’s next moves.

Military experts interpreted the letter “Z” as “Za Pobedy” meaning “victory” or “Zapad” meaning “west”. Some of the dubbed vehicles were painted with the symbol “Zorro Squad”, while others suggested that the letter “Z” might represent the Kremlin’s “Target Number One”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Eric Toler, a researcher at Bellingcat, an open source investigative process that has been monitoring Russian military operations since Moscow launched war in eastern Ukraine eight years ago, said on February 20 that the group had no idea what the “Z” symbol meant and had not seen used it before. “So, suppose the worst, I think/Fear,” he wrote on twitter.
Russian defense policy expert Rob Lee, who has been tracking the “Z” vehicles since troops began assembling on Ukraine’s doorstep, noted that the code could refer to the country’s combat-dedicated military units. “Russian forces near the border appear to be drawing markings, in this case ‘Z’, on vehicles to identify different task forces or levels,” Lee, a PhD student at King’s College London, Department of War StudiesAnd the chirp On February 19.

But in the days after Moscow launched a bloody attack on Ukraine, what started as a shadowy military symbol has become a sign of popular support for the war in Russia, and what analysts describe as the spread of a new, chilling nationalist movement.

Russians have painted the letter “Z” on their cars, black hoods emblazoned with the symbol, and handmade “Z” pins on the lapel – a sign of some popular support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his efforts to expand Moscow’s circle of influence through Seize parts of Ukraine.

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“The authorities launched a propaganda campaign to gain popular support for their invasion of Ukraine and they got a lot of it,” Kamil Galif, an independent researcher and former fellow at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan political think tank in Washington, DC, wrote in an exhaustive Twitter thread about the use of the symbol. “Z” in propaganda videos and by Russians on social media.

“This symbol, invented a few days ago, has become a symbol of the new Russian ideology and national identity,” Galev added.

As the Kremlin tightens its grip on any news of Russian casualties or setbacks on the way home — with an unusual new law making the dissemination of “false” information a prison offense — Putin’s supporters are ramping up their support for the war.

In a nursing home in Kazan, a city in the southwestern Russian region of Tatarstan, children dying of cancer were asked to stand in Z-shaped rows outside on the ice to show their support for the Russian military operation.

Vladimir Vavilov, president of the cancer charity that runs the hospice, said on statment. “In our left hand we held flyers with the flags of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russia and Tatarstan, and we clenched our right hand into our fist.”

Vavilov was referring to the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, two separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine that Putin recognized last month as independent states as part of a pretext to invade the country.

The terminally ill children and the elderly care team lined up to form ";  Z. & quot;

The symbol “Z” also appeared among members of the State Duma of the Russian lower house.

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Maria Butina was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for attempting to infiltrate prominent conservative political circles before and after the 2016 elections. Now she represents the Kirov region of the pro-Putin United Russia party, and she supported the war in posts on her Telegram channel.

Butina took to the platform to share a file section Of herself drawing a white “Z” on her lapel, she updated her profile to a black T-shirt selfie with a white “Z”.

“Keep on working, brothers,” she said in the video, clenching her fist. “We are with you forever.”

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Reporters brought from Ukraine for the state-owned Russian news network Rossiya-24 wore the letter “Z” on their flak jackets.

shots From major Russian cities over the weekend, convoys of cars glued to windows with a white “Z”, honking horns and hoisting huge Russian flags were seized. At the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar, a Russian athlete Ivan Kulyak He wore the badge on the medal podium while standing next to Ukrainian Ilya Kovtun, gold medalist.

And in two brilliantly produced propaganda videos circulating on social media, Russian guys Wearing black T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the letter “Z” and the hashtag #СвоихНеБросаем, or “We’re not giving up on our men,” they wave Russian flags and express their support for Putin’s war, chanting: “For Russia for the president and for Russia for Putin!”

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