Two major German regions, Bavaria and Lower Saxony, have said they want to prosecute anyone using the letter “Z” in public, a symbol of support for Vladimir Putin’s Russia-led war against Ukraine.
People who “publicly express their approval of Russian President Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine using this Z symbol should expect criminal consequences,” said Lower Saxony’s interior minister, Boris Pistorius, in a statement. These Kremlin sympathizers wearing a “Z” in public “must know that they can be prosecuted for having tolerated crimes”, warned meanwhile the Minister of Justice of the Land of Bavaria, Georg Eisenreich, in a message sent to the AFP. Since the beginning of the war against Ukraine, a white “Z” has appeared on the tanks and uniforms of the Russian invasion forces.
Up to three years in prison?
This sign has since been declined in the public space, in Russia but also outside the country and the war zone, being shown “on buildings, cars or clothes”, explains the ministry in Lower Saxony. That this is also the case in this region of Germany, during demonstrations for example, is “absolutely incomprehensible” and aims to “endorse these crimes”, added Mr. Pistorius. “Everyone is allowed to express their opinion in Germany, but freedom of expression stops where criminal law begins,” echoed the Bavarian minister, whose services gave instructions to public prosecutors in Bavaria.
The German penal code punishes with sentences of up to three years’ imprisonment and a monetary fine anyone who shows public approval of wars of aggression, likely to disturb public order.