Why Russian military vehicles are sporting “Z” symbol in Ukraine. Explained
- “Z” symbol went viral on social media since it was first spotted on February 22
- Markings on invasion force vehicles are not uncommon throughout military history
- Experts say Russian vehicles are using it as a communication tool, others said it means victory
The war in Ukraine continues to disrupt normal life. Since February 24, when Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine, Russian tanks and military vehicles have become commonplace. The military vehicles are roaming around Ukrainian cities with the “Z” mark painted on their body.
Since these “Z” marked vehicles were spotted, they became viral on social media. Many people, particularly those supporting Russia, have been found wearing them on t-shirts too.
On Saturday, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak sparked outrage by sporting a 'Z' symbol on his sports vest and now faces “disciplinary proceedings” from the International Gymnastics Federation, which does not allow political symbols at sporting events.
So, what is this “Z” symbol?
According to Galina Starovoitova Fellow Kamil Galeev, "Z" is a letter that the Russian Military is painting on its military vehicles in Ukraine. “Some interpreted "Z" as "Za pobedy" (for victory). Others - as "Zapad" (West),” the scholar said on Twitter.
“This symbol invented just a few days ago became a symbol of new Russian ideology and national identity,” he added
As it became popular, many Russian civilians and business owners also started putting “Z” on their cars making it a trend.
Why are Russian vehicles using “Z” symbol?
Observers said that this is a trend to identify Russia’s own vehicles in Ukraine and to avoid any confusion.
Prominent markings on invasion force vehicles are not uncommon throughout military history. In addition to the Allied Star, forces in Normandy painted black and white stripes on the wings of their aircraft.
The reason for this is that in 1943, during the allied invasion of Sicily, American ground forces shot down more than 20 troop cargo planes that were mistaken for German aircraft, killing nearly 100 men.
Last month, Professor Michael Clarke, former director of the defence think tank RUSI, told Sky News that these symbols are being used as a communication tool.
The "Z" symbol was first spotted on February 22, on Russian vehicles that entered the Donetsk region. In 2014, the "Z" symbol appeared on vehicles in Crimea, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian province.
Apart from "Z", other symbols painted on the Russian military vehicles are a triangle with two lines on either side, a circle with three dots inside and a large triangle with a smaller triangle inside.
Russian military officials have officially not said anything about the symbols.