The Russian army and those supporting its war in Ukraine have seized the letter Z and made it a symbol of their campaign.

What happened

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is possible to see the letter “Z” painted on the sides of Russian tanks. The Russian Defense Ministry explained that the letter is based on the preposition “Za”, the first word of “Za pobedu”, which means “For victory” in Russian. A similar “Z” shaped symbol in a box was displayed by Russian forces during the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

However this might seem like a bit of a strange choice. The “Z” is in fact a Latin letter and Russia uses the Cyrillic alphabet, where the equivalent of this letter looks more like the number “3”.


Russians who support the war in Ukraine wore clothes marked with “Z”, most notably the charming former spy turned political activist Maria Butina, who on Instagram started showing Z-symbol sweatshirts along with some of her photogenic friends.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak also wore a “Z” on his uniform during a competition in Qatar last weekend; the International Gymnastics Federation did not like and asked the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak.


Meanwhile, controversy has erupted on social media over a photo showing terminally ill pediatric patients in a Russian hospital and their parents silhouetted against the snow to form a giant “Z” visible from above.

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