What is the significance of the cult symbol Z on the Russian Armed Forces?


A Russian gymnast has sparked outrage after sporting a pin linked to the invasion of Ukraine on a medal podium next to a competitor from the war-torn country.

Ivan Kuliak had the letter ‘Z’ prominently displayed on his chest as he received his medal alongside Ukraine’s Kovtun Illia, who won gold at a Gymnastics World Cup in Doha.

The letter does not exist in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet and was seen plastered on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine and became the symbol of support for the invasion.


So what does the Z badge mean?

Well, Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow Kamil Galeev wrote a thread to explain what it means and why it’s so concerning.

Its chilling content is detailed below:


“Let’s talk about what is happening in Russia. To put it simply, it becomes completely fascist. The authorities have launched a propaganda campaign to gain popular support for their invasion of Ukraine and they are getting plenty of it. You can see “Z” on these guys’ clothes. What does it mean?”


“Z” is a letter that the Russian military put on their vehicles leaving for Ukraine. Some interpret “Z” as “Za pobedy” (for victory). Others – like “Zapad” (West). Anyway, this symbol invented a few days ago has become a symbol of the new Russian ideology and national identity.


He found a lot of supporters. Lots of Russians put ‘Z’ on their cars – it’s totally voluntary and to my knowledge no one is forcing them.


Business owners put “Z” – showing their support for the invasion on their trucks. Here you see a funeral service fully endorsing the Z message


The Russian army makes Z letters from insignia of killed Ukrainian soldiers.


Here you see terminally ill hospice children and their parents doing Z-training. Yes, the Russians are forcing terminally ill children with cancer and their families to declare their support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine . See the letters Детский хоспис? Children’s Hospice.


And of course, all this is done in the name of the Russian Orthodox Church. Bombings of residential neighborhoods, carpet bombings, launching of ballistic missiles on Ukrainian cities. All this in the name of orthodoxy.


Some claim that the Russian people do not support this invasion and that this is all Putin’s responsibility. Yes, the decision was made by Putin and came as a surprise even to his ministers. But once he was caught, he found huge popular support. People applaud, they are proud and enthusiastic.


Russian media and social media accounts that advocate the invasion often put Z in their names or logos. That’s how we can detect them.


These Z channels and Z bots in Telegram do a lot of work for the Russian secret service. For example, via this bot RSOTM_Z_BOT, one can report to the Russians the location and movement of Ukrainian troops. This is how the Russians collect information.


Thanks to Telegram, the Russians collect information about the Ukrainian army, about the territorial defense troops. They will be used by the “popular levy” (= pro-Russian collaborators) to kill Ukrainian patriots and their families once the Russians take control of their city (I have blurred the personal information).


There is a whole ecosystem of Russian intelligence channels, groups and bots. Some collect data on the movements of Ukrainian troops, others – personal information about Ukrainian fighters to kill them later. I made a very, very incomplete “Z-list” here. There are *many* more.


Pavel Durov @durov owner of Telegram has long been collaborating with Russian state security. When he headed Vkontakte, he gave personal information about the opposition to the FSB. He’s probably helping Russia now. Put him under pressure. He is now a French + Saint Kitts and Nevis citizen living in Dubai.


Putin made the decision to start this war. But he won broad support from the Russian people. Nobody is forcing them to participate in these demonstrations of support, they could totally do without them. But they applaud. They applaud, because they feel good, they feel proud. Russia has become great again.


Russian social media are also applauding. Here you see a viral video: recording of bombed Ukrainian cities, Ukrainians killed by Russian shells, combined with audio of church sermon, chanting the anathema. Russia launches an Orthodox crusade and massacres the Ukrainians.


Different atmosphere, same message. Russian chicks singing how God supports Russia in its holy business of cleaning up Ukraine.


Ethnic Russians abroad also applaud. Here, you Russians in Kazakhstan, putting Z on your car, while Russian ballistic missiles raze Ukrainian residential neighborhoods. When confronted with the Kazakhs, of course, they complain of Russophobia.


Meanwhile, the Russians are going into Syria mode in Ukraine. This is how the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv loses after the raid of Russian bombers. Residential buildings burned down with all the people who lived there. Debris and corpses lie on what were once the streets of the city.

Related: ‘Expect a bailout in weeks’: UK private schools feel the pressure as wealthy Russians are punished

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