Displaying a ‘Z’ is prohibited in German states: NPR

A screen on the roof of a building in central St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday displayed the symbol “Z” and a slogan: “We do not abandon our people”.

Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images


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Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images


A screen on the roof of a building in central St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday displayed the symbol “Z” and a slogan: “We do not abandon our people”.

Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images

Two German states have banned the public display of the letter “Z”, which has become synonymous with support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Authorities in Bavaria and Lower Saxony said over the weekend that anyone who displays the symbol at public events or paints it on cars or buildings could face a fine or up to three years in prison, according to the site in English. Local reports. And a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior told reporters Monday that people across Germany who post the letter endorsing Russia’s aggression could face prosecution.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a criminal act, and anyone who publicly approves of this war of aggression may also face prosecution,” the spokesman told a news conference, according to Reuters.

The letter ‘Z’ – which is part of the Latin alphabet but not the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russian – first appeared on tanks and other military vehicles massed near the Russia-Ukraine border , perhaps to distinguish them from Ukrainian forces.

Once the invasion started, “Z” was hard to miss. The letter was circulated on social media and stuck on billboards and stickers across Russia. Even outside the country, the symbol appeared on clothing.

Its origins may be mysterious, as NPR reported, but its symbolism is clear: it represents support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, both at home and abroad.

Chapter 140 of the German criminal code recognizes “incitement to the crime of aggression” as an offence, according to Ukraine Ukrinform state news agency. The Local reports that there have been displays of “Z” in Lower Saxony and Bavaria.

Announcing the decision, Bavarian Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich said freedom of thought “ends where criminal law begins”.

“The Bavarian public prosecutor’s office takes consistent action against people who publicly endorse aggressive warfare that violates international law,” he said, according to Ukrinform. “Russian President [Vladimir] Putin has launched a criminal war of aggression that is inflicting terrible suffering on the Ukrainian people, so the Bavarian justice system is watching closely.”

This story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.

James R. Rhodes