Lithuania’s parliament passed a ban on the use of the letter “Z” and other symbols that have been used to signify support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During the legislative body’s April 18 session, lawmakers amended a preexisting ban on public displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols to include displays of the letter “Z,” the black and orange ribbon of Saint George and other pro-Russia symbols.
The parliament described the now outlawed items as “the symbols of totalitarian or authoritarian regimes used in the past or currently use[d] to promote military aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed or perpetrated by them.”
Freedom Party MP Monika Ošmianskienė, who proposed the law, said, “There are no more specific provisions on symbols and letters, but the police will have the possibility to impose a fine for the display of an even wider range of pro-aggression symbols.”
On Facebook, Ošmianskienė said the ban was a matter of “national security.”
“This is an important preventive step because Russian war propaganda is not tiring and is looking for all sorts of ways to distort our people,” she wrote. “It is also an expression of support for the Ukrainians who are fighting for freedom, as well as for those who have fled the war to live here.”
One MP voted against the law while 124 lawmakers voted in favor of the ban.
Any individual in violation of the ban can be fined €900 ($971 USD). A company could be fined €1,500 ($1,619 USD).
“The Lithuanian decision comes after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova,” reports Reuters. “Germany was also considering such ban.”
The Saint George ribbon was adopted by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Since the onset of the conflict in late February, the letter “Z” has been observed on a number of Russian military vehicles. It has also been displayed on billboards in Russian cities and on shirts sold by the state-owned media outlet RT.
One Russian gymnast taped the letter to his uniform while appearing on the award podium at the sport’s World Cup.
The letter “Z” is not a part of the Cyrillic alphabet used both by Russians and Ukrainians.
“Some speculate that the ‘Z’ could stand for ‘zapad,’ which means west in Russian,” reports NPR. “Some have snidely suggested that the symbol stands for other words such as ‘zhopa,’ meaning ass in a reference to stiff Ukrainian resistance.”
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Kuleba called on the international community to outlaw the symbolic use of “Z” on Twitter on March 29.
“‘Z’ means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians. Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden,” Kuleba wrote.
I call on all states to criminalize the use of the ‘Z’ symbol as a way to publicly support Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. ’Z’ means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians. Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 29, 2022