The Russian military and those who support its war in Ukraine have hijacked the letter “Z” as the symbol of their campaign.
What Happened: Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the letter “Z” has been painted on the sides of Russian tanks. The Russian Defense Ministry explained the letter is based on the preposition “Za,” the first word in “Za pobedu,” which means “For victory” in Russian. A similar symbol featuring a “Z” in a box was displayed by Russian forces in the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
Still, this might seem a bit odd, since “Z” is a Latin letter and Russia uses the Cyrillic alphabet where the equivalent for the letter looks more like the number “3.”
What Else Happened: Russians who support the war in Ukraine have been wearing clothing marked with “Z,” most notably the glamorous outed spy turned political activist Maria Butina who took to Instagram with some photogenic friends to model their “Z” sweatshirts.
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak also wore a “Z” on his uniform during a competition in Qatar last weekend. The International Gymnastics Federation was not amused and asked the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak.
A degree of controversy erupted on social media from a photograph that showed terminally ill pediatric patients at a Russian hospital and their parents standing out in the snow to form a giant “Z” that could only be visible from above.
Photos: Top photograph of Maria Butina (second from right) and friends via Ms. Butina's website; photo of the "Z" made by terminally ill children in the snow courtesy of Kamil Galeev's Twitter page.
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