Tuesday, May 17

Russian invasion in Ukraine: What does the letter “Z” mean? | Digital Trends Spanish

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the letter “Z” has appeared in messages spread on social media, on billboards in Russian cities, and on T-shirts that RT, Russia’s state-owned outlet, sells on its website as apparent support for the ongoing conflict.

In addition, the Russian athlete Ivan Kuliak appeared in a T-shirt with the aforementioned letter embroidered at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar, which was noticeable when he stood on the podium to receive the bronze medal on parallel bars. This case raised strong criticism, because next to him was the Ukrainian Illia Kovtun with the gold medal.

Russian Ivan Kuliak wore the letter Z on his chest during the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha.
The Z is reportedly a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Kuliak won bronze in parallel bars. Ukraine’s Kovtun Illia won gold.)https://t.co/iZ1Kb5RIUq pic.twitter.com/Qi6wGHMGHO

— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) March 5, 2022

After the controversial gesture of Kuliak, 20, the athlete was condemned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which announced the opening of disciplinary action “for his scandalous behavior.”

In addition, this Gymnastics World Cup was one of the last competitions that included the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes, since the federation announced his expulsion since March 7, as has happened with other international events.

What does the “Z” stand for in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict?

The letter “Z” does not appear in the Cyrillic alphabet used by both Russians and Ukrainians, but it has become a symbol of support for Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Before the Russian invasion, this letter was seen painted on tanks and other military vehicles that were concentrated near the border. Since both countries use similar tanks and trucks, this was originally thought to be meant to distinguish different units to avoid friendly fire and help with mobilization.

But the truth is that the controversial letter in the Russian gymnast’s outfit is part of the nationalist propaganda that has spread throughout Russia, which has the objective of voluntarily showing support for the invasion, according to the explanation of academic expert Kamil Galeev in a Twitter post.

“Z” is a letter that Russian Military are putting on their vehicles departing to Ukraine. Some interpret "Z" as "Za pobedy" (for victory). Others – as "Zapad" (west). Anyway, this symbol invented just a few days ago became a symbol of new Russian ideology and national identity pic.twitter.com/iWuBPhhdEb

— Kamil Galeev (@kamilkazani) March 6, 2022

“Some interpret the “Z” as “Za pobedy” (for victory). Others, like “Zapad” (West). Anyway, this symbol invented just a few days ago became a symbol of the new Russian national ideology and identity,” Galeev said.

According to the expert’s Twitter thread, the letter has appeared on flags, clothing, car windows and stores. there is even social media accounts who have added the “Z” to their names or profile pictures to show support for the Russian military.

There is also a different version of the white letter, which has black and orange stripes. It has been painted on large apartment blocks or placed on billboards in major cities.

In accordance with Washington Post, the color scheme was the informal symbol of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. And then, it was widely used in 2014 by Ukrainian separatists as a way to show allegiance to Moscow during Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Even in St. Petersburg, there is a billboard that features a large “Z” in orange and black, accompanied by the words “We don’t give up what’s ours”. The slogan refers to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official line that the goal of the invasion is to “liberate” and “denazify” Ukraine, an independent nation led by a democratically elected Jewish president.

The widespread use of this letter in Russia contrasts with the messages of rejection from a large number of Russian citizens, who have been arrested for opposing the invasion of Ukraine.

And contrary to gymnast Ivan Kuliak, Russian athletes such as tennis player Andrey Rublev and footballer Fedor Smolov have also made their anti-invasion stance public on social media. Smolov, who plays for the Russian national team, wrote: “No to war” in his instagram account.

Putin’s so-called “military operation” has left hundreds of civilians dead and more than 1.7 million refugees fleeing the country in two weeks. In addition, the Russian leader canceled local media that cover the war without adhering to his government’s propaganda and announced 15 years in prison for publishing what he considers “fake news.”

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