German states ban public displays of Russian war symbol
Russian war symbol banned in German states
On Saturday, authorities in the federal states announced a ban on public displays of the “Z” symbol that is currently being used by Russian armed forces in their invasion of Ukraine. The symbol has also been used by supporters of the Russian invasion, particularly in the streets of Moscow and on the internet. Anyone who is caught displaying the insignia in the German states in question, for instance at demonstrations or on cars or buildings, could face up to three years in jail, or a substantial fine.
Lower Saxony’s interior ministry said that examples of the symbol have been found around the state. “It is incomprehensible to me how this symbol “Z” could be used in our country to condone this crime,” said Lower Saxony’s interior minister Boris Pistorius, referring to the invasion.
Georg Eisenreich, Bavaria’s justice minister, called freedom of speech a great asset, but warned that it “ends where criminal law begins”. Eisenreich also emphasised that anyone displaying the symbol would be liable for prosecution. “Sympathisers who use the symbol "Z" of Russian forces in Bavaria must know that they may be liable to be prosecuted for approving criminal acts,” he said. “We will not allow violations of international law to be condoned.”
The mystery of the Russian “Z” symbol
The “Z” symbol in question has come to be seen as a pro-war symbol adopted by the Russian government, as well as civilians who want to show their support for Russia’s invasion. The symbol initially caused some confusion when it was seen depicted on Russian military vehicles and uniforms, mainly due to the ambiguity surrounding it when it was first reported in the media.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has given some clarification on the meaning of the insignia, posting on Instagram that it is an abbreviation of the phrase “For Victory” (za pobedu in Romanised Russian). The ministry later went on to suggest alternative meanings for the symbol, including “For Peace” (za mir) and “For Truth” (za pravdu). It also equated the “Z” symbol to the letter “Z” inside the English words “demilitarization” and “denazification”, which are the reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin gave to justify the invasion.