Instead of the “Z”, Russians send a new symbol to the Ukraine war

The “Z” became the epitome of what is officially called “Special Military Operation” in Russia. Because the Ukraine war is not going according to plan, a new symbol has to be used.

Lars Wienand / t-online

An article by

In German Bavaria, the judiciary is known to be particularly fast. And so Johannes P. is perhaps the first German who has to leave his car because of a stuck-on “Z” symbol: The district court in Wolfratshausen imposed a one-month driving ban because of the approximately 20 by 20 centimeter letter he put on the back of his car glued.

Russian military vehicle with a Z symbol in Melitopol, Ukraine.Image: keystone

Because the man with the “Z” approved a war of aggression, the 45-year-old unemployed should also pay a fine of 120 daily rates of 15 euros each. So a total of 1,800 euros, reports the “Merkur”. The sticker has since disappeared from his car.

The example is probably representative of the fact that the paint generally seems to be peeling off the «Z». With this letter, Russia propaganda celebrated its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. The «Z», which initially became almost a cult in Russia, is increasingly being pushed aside, replaced and painted over. In the war zone and online.

Military vehicles with a new logo

The fact that the “Z” is losing meaning was perhaps first noticed in the city of Tores, which has a population of 55,000. Tores made global headlines in 2014 after a Malaysian Airlines civilian plane crashed in the city in Donetsk Oblast: Flight MH17 with 298 on board, shot down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile.

On the morning of August 29, 2022, Russian military vehicles drove through the town of Tores, which is 35 kilometers from the Russian border. An account that has apparently been providing Ukrainian authorities with information from the occupied region for years reported on Twitter about this – and about one thing that he had noticed in addition to “many bearded people, probably Chechens”: the vehicles had a “circle on the side in a triangle».

Circle in triangle: Russian troops were first sighted in Ukraine with the symbol at the end of August.

Circle in triangle: Russian troops were first sighted in Ukraine with the symbol at the end of August.Screenshot telegram

That is new. Pictures emerged a day later. The pro-Ukrainian Twitterer @GirkinGirkin, whose posts with often unseen images regularly end up in the media, posted a video and then a screenshot: the circle in a triangle. Clearly recognizable, because the fresh white of the symbol stands out strongly against the military vehicle.

The vehicles with the tactical sign should belong to the newly formed 3rd Army Corps. In the days before the recordings, the Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent Russian research group, had already reported such transfers in the Rostov region. New units drove through Tores – with fresh symbols.

Symbol on 3rd Army Corps vehicles

It has been appearing more and more frequently since then. t-online was able to find reports, pictures and videos from different regions. The circle and triangle could be seen in the Mariupol area. The Russian Ministry of Defense itself published a video of a convoy of vehicles being transferred to the Kharkiv region.

There are more images showing suspected reinforcements being brought near Kurpyansk, a railroad junction that the Ukrainians just recaptured in the Kharkiv offensive. The “Ukrainian Military Center”, a non-governmental organization of volunteers, also assigns the symbol to the 3rd Army Corps on corresponding photos.

The “Z” was not the only marking on the vehicles of the Russian attackers. There was also the O, the V, and more rarely the X and the A. There were early explanations from the Ukrainian military as to what the letters should stand for: their origin. And there were military bloggers who tried to refute this using freely available information from the war zones and, above all, associated it with the areas of operation.

Meaning of Z, V, O, A and X never properly clarified

The O attackers were thus not exclusively Belarusian forces, Vs not identical with units of the Marine Corps, and Chechens, who were assigned the X, were also found in the Z units, which were supposed to stand for eastern Russian units. And the supposedly Crimean units with a Z in a square fought far away. Meanwhile, Ukrainians joked about their own successes, saying that the letters stood for the name of their president, V_olodymyr O_eksandrovich Z_elenski.

V, O, Z: In the first phase of the war, the US portal

V, O, Z: In the first phase of the war, the US portal “Battle Order” analyzed where which tactical symbols appeared. The research was also disseminated in major opposition Russian channels.Screenshot YouTube

For a long time, the only thing that was clear was that Russian propaganda had massively exploited the Z. Within a short time, it became the commitment of all those who fully supported the so-called “Special Military Operation” and wanted to show it. Even at the Doha Gymnastics World Cup, a Russian medalist jumped onto the podium with a Z on his chest. The Russians were then excluded from the competitions.

The sign could still be seen in the first pro-Russian parades in Germany before various federal states declared that it could constitute a criminal offense. In Saxony-Anhalt alone, the police are dealing with 46 cases. As a precautionary measure, the Zoller bakery in Esslingen went so far as not to scratch its Z trademark into the bread, as was previously the case. The Z has also become a symbol for evil. Anyone who wants to attack Russia writes about “Ruzzen” in social networks.

Ukrainians paint «+» symbol

The excitement about the Z could now subside again. There are still pictures of vehicles with the letter, but there are also photos and videos on which it is painted over. On the one hand, because Ukrainians have conquered the device and are increasingly painting a + symbol on it. On the other hand, also from Russian troops, on whose vehicles the circle and triangle now cover the Z.

As with the appearance of the Z, there is as yet no plausible official explanation for its meaning. Because vehicles with this sign were already sighted at the end of August, it is apparently not a reaction to the recent Ukrainian successes, but at most to the goals of the past few months that have not yet been achieved, which necessitate additional troops.

The Z no longer stands for a march through and the hope for quick triumphs, but also for many Russian sons and fathers who were killed. According to a survey by the Russian Levada Center in the last week of August, i.e. before the painful defeats in eastern Ukraine, 48 percent of Russians were in favor of continuing the war – in May it was 72 percent. And Russian propagandists are less and less relying on the letter that stands for war.

War supporters delete the Z

Moscow historian Kamil Galeev reported on September 1 about the “interesting phenomenon on Telegram: pro-war channels are en masse deleting the Z and V letters from their profiles”. One example is the Wagner mercenary group. It was Galeev who declared in April that the Z had become “the symbol of a new Russian ideology and national identity”. Now he asked, “Are the rats leaving the sinking ship?”

However, pro-Russian channels also connect hopes with the change: The German Alina Lipp, who from the occupied territories in a channel with almost 200,000 subscribers for Russia’s war, wrote: “Something is happening here”. She remembers the first time photos with a Z appeared in the channels just before the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. It was supposed to bring what she called “liberation” and “denazification.”

Now a new symbol, a triangle with a circle, has to serve as a symbol of new hope.

Sources used:

The article is in German

Tags: Russians send symbol Ukraine war

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