German states outlaw display of Russia’s ‘Z’ war symbol

Authorities in Lower Saxony and Bavaria have banned the display of the 'Z' symbol that has become synonymous with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is unclear if other German states will follow suit.

'Z' t-shirts are sold in Russian marketplaces. Two German states have banned the symbol.
'Z' t-shirts are sold in Russian marketplaces. Two German states have banned the symbol. (Photo by AFP)

Two German states on Saturday said they have outlawed public displays of the “Z” symbol used by the Russian army in their invasion of Ukraine.

Anyone who brandishes the symbol at demonstrations or paints it on cars or buildings in a show of support for Vladimir Putin’s war could risk up to three years in jail or a fine in Lower Saxony or Bavaria.

“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.

“Z”, a letter that features in the Latin alphabet but not in Cyrillic, first appeared on military vehicles rolling towards Ukraine, possibly to distinguish them from Ukrainian forces and avoid friendly fire.

But the sign has since become ubiquitous on cars on the streets of Moscow, clothing and across social media profiles on the Russian internet — a trend the Russian authorities are eager to encourage.

In the German state of Lower Saxony too, there had been examples of such displays, said the state’s interior ministry.

Bavaria’s Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich noted that freedom of opinion is a “great asset” but it “ends where criminal law begins”.

“Sympathisers who use the symbol ‘Z’ of Russian forces in Bavaria must know that they may be liable to prosecution for approving criminal acts,” he said.

“We will not allow violations of international law to be condoned,” he said.

Germany’s federal prosecutor has opened a probe into suspected war crimes by Russian troops since the invasion of Ukraine.

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Germany among nations ‘doing the most’ for Ukraine, says chancellor

Germany is one of the countries doing the most to provide military aid to war-torn Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said while defending his country's delays in delivering weapons to Kyiv.

Germany among nations 'doing the most' for Ukraine, says chancellor

The long delays for German weapons, compared to the speedy deliveries of US arms, are due to the need to train Ukrainian soldiers in Germany, Scholz told CBS News on the talk show “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday.

“We will always see that Germany is one of the countries that is doing the most, because what we are sending now is the most sophisticated technology you can use,” Scholz said in the interview conducted Thursday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.

Since Russia invaded its eastern European neighbour on February 24th, Berlin has been accused of hesitating – even being reluctant – to send weapons to Ukraine, out of concern for its relations with Moscow.

Certain US weapons were delivered less than 48 hours after President Joe Biden signed off on the transfer, CBS journalist Margaret Brennan noted during her exchange with Scholz.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz vows backing for Ukraine for ‘as long as needed’

But the chancellor said comparing that timeframe to Germany’s weeks or months of delay is unreasonable.

“You should understand that there is a difference of a country like the United States, which spends that much for defense, which is a very big
investment, and you have a lot of weapons and stocks,” said Scholz.

He explained that the rocket launchers sent by other countries were already in stock, but were not necessarily the most modern, whereas Germany will send “the most modern howitzer… on the world market.”

He also expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin had the means to continue his offensive in Ukraine.

“He is really doing this brutal war, and he prepared for it,” said Scholz, noting he thinks Putin decided to invade a year or more before actually doing so.

“So he will be able to continue with the war really a long time.”