German states have declared that showing the Russian ‘Z’ used in the invasion of Ukraine will become a criminal offence.
Several federal states have announced that there will be criminal consequences for members of the public using the ‘Z’, which has been called “a symbol of Putin’s fascism”.
The ‘Z’ was first seen on Russian military vehicles invading Ukraine before being adopted by supporters of the war, which is illegal under international law.
It has since been adopted by the Russian government as a propaganda tool to drum up support for what it still calls a “special military operation”, threatening anybody who calls it “a war” with up to 15 years in prison.
Berlin’s Senator for Interior, Digitalisation and Sport, Iris Spranger, 60, of the SPD (Social Democratic Party), said: “If the context of the war is created by using the white Z, as can be seen on the Russian military vehicles, then of course that means advocating the war of aggression.
“That would immediately be a punishable offence.”
The move appears to have been echoed for now by at least the German states of Lower Saxony and Bavaria, and there are reports that it is also being discussed in by parliamentarians and officials in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt.
The Bavarian Justice Minister, Georg Eisenreich, 51, of the CSU (Christian Social Union in Bavaria), said: “The Bavarian public prosecutors are taking consistent action against people who publicly approve of this war of aggression, which violates international law.”
He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, 69, had launched a criminal war of aggression that was causing terrible suffering to the Ukrainian people, adding: “We do not accept crimes against international law being condoned.”
Eisenreich said: “Freedom of opinion is a great asset of our constitution. Everyone can express their opinion in Germany. But freedom of opinion ends where criminal law begins.”
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Refugee Minister Joachim Stamp, 51, of the FDP (Free Democratic Party), said: “The ‘Z’ as a symbol of Putin’s fascism should be banned throughout Germany.”
Anyone seen using the letter ‘Z’ to support the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine will therefore reportedly be liable to prosecution.
The UN’s International Court of Justice has deemed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine illegal and has ordered Putin to remove his troops.
Former British Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown have called for the creation of a Nuremberg-style international tribunal to investigate Putin, former Prime Minister David Cameron has said “Putin belongs in a war crimes tribunal”, and current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “Vladimir Putin has already crossed the red line into barbarism”.
The tribunal proposal has also been signed by other figures, including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and American lawyer Benjamin Ferencz, who is 102 years old and who prosecuted Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg Trials after Adolf Hitler’s defeat.
Ferencz obtained death sentences against members of SS mobile death squads called the Einsatzgruppen, who committed atrocities in Eastern Europe between 1941 and 1945, killing 2 million people, 1.3 million of them Jews.