Posted on March 30, 2022

Germany to Prosecute Use of ‘Z’ Symbol to Support Russia’s War

Nette Nöstlinger, Politico, March 28, 2022

German officials plan to prosecute people who display the “Z” symbol associated with Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The interior ministry said Monday it welcomed announcements by several regional states that people who use the symbol will face legal action on the basis of a law that forbids the public approval of illegal acts.

Germans could fall foul of the law if they paint the symbol on property, display it during demonstrations or publish it online. If found guilty, they could be fined or jailed for up to three years, according to the criminal code.

The white “Z” became a symbol of Russia’s war after being painted on military vehicles taking part in the invasion of Ukraine. Its meaning is not clear; some believe it represents a military zone, others suggest it refers to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Russian defense ministry has indicated it stands for “za pobedu,” meaning “for victory.”

The symbol has been adopted by Russians to show support for the war. {snip}


The German states of Berlin, Bavaria, Saxony and Lower Saxony have all announced they will take legal action against people using the symbol. Officials in three more states — Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt — have said they are looking into similar measures.

Michael Roth, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats who chairs the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, welcomed the announcements.

“The ‘Z’ has become a symbol of an authoritarian regime, which is conducting a terrible war of aggression, breaking international law, gagging freedom of expression and making lies the norm,” Roth tweeted. “Anyone in our country who uses the ‘Z’ is making themselves into a vassal of the Russian regime and must be punished.”


Jörg Heidrich, a lawyer who specializes in IT law and is a member of the German Press Council that self-regulates media outlets, said the decision poses “great legal difficulties.”