What does the Z symbol mean? Russian military tank significance explored as gymnast faces ban over 'pro-war' sign

Meaning of the letter Z explained as the same is seen across Russia (Image via kamilkazani/Twitter)
Meaning of the letter Z explained as the same is seen across Russia (Image via kamilkazani/Twitter)

Netizens have noticed the Z symbol on social media amidst the Ukrainian crisis. The letter is being used to show support for Russia.

It was first seen on war tanks. Since then, the letter has appeared on clothing, civilian vehicles, and more.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak is also being investigated after displaying the symbol on his uniform, as seen at the medal ceremony at a World Cup event held in Doha, Qatar.

The athlete was seen with the bronze medal standing next to a Ukrainian gold medalist.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has since pledged that the independent integrity unit will be investigating the "shocking behavior." As of Monday, Russian gymnasts will be facing a lengthy ban from all future FIG competitions.

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What does the Z symbol mean?

There is no letter Z in the Russian alphabet. However, some believe that the letter was seen across the country to showcase their support for the Ukrainian invasion.

Kamil Galeev, a member of the Wilson Center think tank, interpreted the symbol to be a short form for "za pobedy," which means "for victory" in Russian.

Some netizens also predict that the symbol is the short term for "zapad," which means "west." This would mean that a unit is West-bound.

A Ukrainian source also told publications that the symbol may be used to differentiate between Ukrainian and Russian forces to "avoid friendly fire once the action begins."

The source added that displaying a symbol is absolutely necessary as both countries would have similar war machines. Hence, it would be essential "to reduce the risk of friendly fires."

The symbol has already been used by many civilians in Russia. In the city of Kazan in southwest Russia, the chairman of a cancer charity organized its patients to line up in a giant Z. They were photographed using a drone.

Ordinary Russian civilians have painted the Z symbol on bus stops, taxis, billboards, and other areas in cities as well.

Russian media, social media accounts, and online streamers are adding the Z symbol to their logos and titles as well.

The same has been seen on Russian nationalists, including pro-Putin politicians like Mikhail Delyagin and Maria Butina.

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Edited by Ravi Iyer