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Cracking the Russian “password” .. “Z” ban in German states

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The German states of Bavaria and Lower Saxony have decided to ban the use of the “Z” symbol in the country’s public sphere, after it was linked to the war in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, politicians from across the political spectrum have pushed for the Russian propaganda symbol “Z” to be banned at the federal level, according to German reports.

But the first official step came from the state of Lower Saxony, which announced on Friday that strong criminal consequences await any person or entity using this symbol in the public domain.

Interior Minister Boris Pistorius, a descendant of Germany’s ruling Social Democrats, said anyone using the “Z” symbol to publicly express approval of what he called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine should expect criminal consequences in Lower Saxony.

And Pistorius continued: “I find it incomprehensible how this ‘Z’ symbol can be used in our country within the framework of tolerance of this crime,” as he himself expressed.

As a consequence of Pistorius’ position, whoever uses this symbol is exposed to a sentence of up to three years in prison or a fine, whether this symbol is used during demonstrations or written on cars or buildings as an expression of support for the Russians. . position in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

In Bavaria, state Justice Minister Jörg Eisenreich said freedom of expression was a “great advantage” but that it “ends when the limits of criminal law begin.”

“Supporters in Bavaria who use the ‘Z’ symbol for Russian forces must realize that they risk prosecution for supporting criminal acts,” he said, adding: “We will not tolerate any violation of international law.”

Both mandates are based on article 140 of the German Penal Code, which states that “conduct which is understood as open approval of aggressive wars and which is likely to disturb public peace shall be punished.”

The letter “Z”, a Latin letter rather than a letter from the Russian alphabet, was written on Russian armor during its advance into Ukraine in late February, possibly to distinguish them from similar Ukrainian equipment and to avoid friendly fire.

But this identification mark soon became a symbol and was spread on the cars on the streets of Moscow, on clothes or in the profiles of Russians on social networks, and became a symbol of the Russian operation on the ground. Ukrainian and his support.

The symbol also sparked a firestorm of controversy and multiple attempts at interpretation, as one theory says that it could be the first letter of the word “Zapad” (West), and this could be the direction of Russian forces moving towards the west. West. and another theory says that it indicates that the Russian equipment belongs to Para military units in the Russian West. A fourth theory is that the letter is a reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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