Amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis, reports of dozens of Russian tanks and other military vehicles entering Ukraine and having the letter 'Z' marked in white on their sides have raised concerns and speculations on social media. What does this mysterious Z symbol really mean?
Several videos and photos of Russian tanks, self-propelled artillery, mobile rocket launchers and other supply vehicles with the symbols, either by itself or enclosed by shape of a triangle, square and circle have emerged on social media. The footage shows all these marked tanks are just miles away from the Ukraine border and that the Russian army is ready for a full-scale attack.
Aric Toler, a reporter for Bellingcat, said that his group has been monitoring Russian military symbols for the last eight years, but they aren't aware of what the 'Z' painted on the tanks and other military vehicles are nor they have seen them before. "So, assume the worst, I guess/fear," Toler wrote on his Twitter handle.
The mystery deepens as the Z symbol is not part of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.
Russia Analyst Rob Lee's Theory About the Z Symbol
While Russia analyst Rob Lee believes the symbols may be related to the contingents of the invasion force that has been assigned to regions in Ukraine. "It appears Russian forces near the border are painting markers, in this case, 'Z,' on vehicles to identify different task forces or echelons," Lee tweeted.
The Z symbols were spotted and filmed two days prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering tanks and 10,000 military troops into eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.
According to David Kime, an expert quoted by the Daily Express, the Z could refer to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It has been reported that the main goal of Russia's military action in Ukraine would be the overthrow of Zelenskyy. According to the Express, David Kime is a former intelligence officer of Wagner mercenaries, a Russian paramilitary group.
Another theory going around is that Z signifies the 'final invasion'. According to another strategist cited by the Express, the symbol could mean that the final preparations for Ukraine invasion are complete.
Antonio Guterres Urges Putin to 'give peace a chance'
Putin has announced that a military operation is to be conducted in East Ukraine claiming the country is threatened by Ukraine. Putin has also warned any foreign interference with Russia's action would lead to dire consequences.
However, on the contrary, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Putin to "give peace a chance." The symbols mirror UK and US tactics in the First Gulf War when forces sent to liberate Kuwait marked vehicles with an upturned chevron. Meanwhile, Ukraine has alerted its citizens in Russia to evacuate the country immediately.