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The Letter 'Z' is Appearing All Over Russia. Here's What It Likely Means.
Originating on Russian convoy vehicles, 'Z' has become a symbol for allegiance to Vladimir Putin in his aggression against Ukraine.
Image credit: letrag.com
If you have been paying attention to media coverage of the Ukraine/Russia crisis, you may have noticed what looks like a capital letter "Z" painted on Russian convoy vehicles.
There is a staged photograph taken at outside a Russian children’s hospital in which people formed a “Z” (below).
Image credit: Angela Vavilova Foundation via independent.co.uk
Accused Russian spy Maria Butina recorded herself drawing a “Z” in white marker on a blazer.
Some Russian loyalists filmed a video of themselves in identical black shirts brandishing the letter “Z” and a hashtag in Russian that translates to “We don’t abandon our own.”
A Russian gymnast recently appeared in pictures beside Ukrainian athletes sporting a "Z" on the front of his uniform.
But what does it mean?
It's interesting to note there is no letter "Z" in the Cyrillic alphabet.
The most popular theory from military personnel is that the Z represents "Zapad," meaning "west," where Russian troops are usually stationed.
Some state it is identification to avoid being attacked by so-called "friendly fire" since Ukrainian vehicles are from the Soviet era and look similar to Russian ones.
Others assume it has something to do with the name of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
But while the most puzzling, "Z" is not the only letter seen on Russian vehicles.
The letter "V" is also on some, leading some to speculate it represents "Vladimir," as in Vladimir Putin.
Some also report seeing letters O, X, and A.
Former director for the think tank Rusi, Professor Michael Clarke, explained:
"Often these symbols will be location-based—they will be communicating where a unit is heading. If they were only to mark the vehicles as being Russian, you could just use one symbol. The fact that they are different tells you more—they are probably signs which tell you which units are heading to the north-east or north-west of a district, for example."
According to Ukrainian military intelligence, "Z" stands for for Russia's Eastern Military District; "Z" with a box drawn around it represents Crimea; "O" means Belarus; "V," Marines; "X," Chechnya; "A," Special Forces.
Regardless of whether or not it is purely a means of identification, anti-Ukrainian some Russians have adopted it to express their disdain for Ukraine.
This is perfect example of innocuous iconography being appropriated for propagandistic purposes, like Hitler stealing the swastika from the ancient Eastern symbol for well being.
American white nationalists also ruined the ubiquitous "okay" hand sign when they started using it as a clandestine symbol of solidarity.
The original "Operation O-KKK" post at 4chan.
Image credit: splcenter.org