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Moscow: Since the beginning of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the letter “Z” printed on the tanks of the Russian army has appeared in Russia’s public space: on cars, on the chest of a gymnast, and even on women’s nail polish.
While there are several theories about its meaning, one thing is certain, which is that it symbolizes the support of the Russian army, whose appearance crystallizes the feelings of both supporters and opponents.
The letter “Z”, a Latin letter and not one of the Cyrillic letters used in the Russian alphabet, appeared painted on Russian armor as it advanced into or into Ukraine, possibly to distinguish it from similar Ukrainian equipment and to avoid friendly fire.
But the identification tag quickly became a symbol and spread on cars on the streets of Moscow, on clothes or in the profiles of Russians on social networks. It seems that the authorities want to encourage this phenomenon.
On its Instagram and Telegram pages, the Russian Ministry of Defense uses the letter in several messages: “Za Pobedo” (for victory), “Za Mir” (for peace), “Za Pravdo” (for the truth) “Za Rossio”. (for Russia).
Also, local media published a picture taken from the sky of sixty sick children, their families, and the doctors and nurses caring for them forming the letter “Z” in the snow-covered courtyard of the nursing home in Kazan, Tatarstan.
A few days later, 20-year-old Russian gymnast Ivan Kulyak climbed onto the podium at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar with the letter “Z” plastered on his chest. Next to him is a Ukrainian athlete.
The International Gymnastics Federation responded by calling for disciplinary proceedings to be opened against Kolyak for his shocking behaviour.
For his part, the young athlete told Russian media that he was ready to repeat “the same thing: I saw our soldiers wearing it and looked at what the symbol meant. … I wanted to express my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and I will play for peace.”
Among the theories put forward about the meaning of “Z” there is also the very small possibility that the first letter of the word “zapad” which means “west” in Russian, referring to the armed forces of the western region of the country.
Finally, some have also pointed out that it is the first letter of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s name.
Whatever the case, from politicians to celebrities and some social media influencers, everyone wants to show off the “Z” that has become a symbol of loyalty to the Kremlin.
Thus, Roskomnadzor, the Russian media regulator, wrote a capital “Z” in its Telegram name.
In many Russian regions, including remote ones, rallies and other demonstrations of support under the slogan “We do not abandon our sons” abounded, with women’s choirs singing with the letter “Z” on their chests and taxis displaying a “Z” in their windows or Cars are parked in such a way that the letter “Z” is depicted.
A resident of Donetsk, a pro-Russian separatist city in eastern Ukraine, posted on Instagram a picture of her fingernails painted black with the letter “Z” in white.
And in Brnwall in the south, a huge “Z” is shaped on the snow in orange and brown, the colors of the St. George’s Ribbon, a symbol of military valor.
Entrepreneurs quickly picked up the idea and designed T-shirts bearing the “Z” logo that are now sold online.
As for the symbols of the camp opposed to military intervention, they are less visible in the public sphere, even if small demonstrations take place daily despite the ban.
Peaceful slogans are sometimes painted on the walls in Moscow. But it is quickly erased.
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