'Z' Symbol on Russian Military Vehicles: What Does It Mean? Why Is It Used?

Where was the 'Z' symbol first seen? What is its purpose? Here is all you need to know.

2 min read
Edited By :Tejas Harad

Thirteen days after the Russia-Ukraine war began, the Russian armed vehicles have been roaming around Kyiv and other cities with the letter 'Z' painted across their sides.

Images of the white 'Z' emblem are commonly seen on social media, stylised in thick brushstrokes. The emblem has also been seen on T-shirts of many protesters, particularly those supporting Russia.

What does the 'Z' symbol mean? Where was it first seen? What is its purpose? Here is all you need to know:

What does the 'Z' symbol mean?

So far, there are two interpretations of the 'Z' emblem on the Russian military vehicles:

  • 'Za pobedy' means 'victory'

  • 'Zapad' means 'west'

What is the purpose of the 'Z' symbol?

The following may be the purpose of the 'Z' symbol on the Russian military vehicles:

  • For identifying Russian vehicles and avoiding friendly fire.

  • For communicating location of vehicles or a unit.

  • For implying Russian identity and ideology.

Nevertheless, the actual meaning of the symbol is yet not confirmed by the Russian forces.


When was the symbol first seen?

According to many sources, the 'Z' emblem was first seen on Russian war vehicles on 22 February while entering Donetsk region.

However, according to The Independent, the 'Z' emblem had appeared on war vehicles in Crimea back in 2014, when it was annexed to the Russian territory.

Who all are seen using this symbol?

The 'Z' symbol has been used by:

  • The Russian military vehicles

  • People supporting Russia

  • Pro-Russian far-right protesters

  • Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak

  • Russian spy Maria Butina

Is it related to the Nazi symbol?

Oleksii Reznikov, the Defense Minister of Ukraine, drew resemblance of the 'Z' emblem to the symbol of the Nazis.

He also pointed out that there was a 'Z' station near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp were people were killed in masses, dating back to 1943.

What other symbols are used in the Russia-Ukraine war?

The following symbols are also commonly seen on the Russian war vehicles entering Russia:

  • A triangle in the middle of two lines

  • A circle with three dots in it

  • A triangle inside a larger triangle

(Inputs from NDTV, News18, and Insider.)

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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