Ukraine mother weeps over son's grave after senseless attack
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Berlin has declared that showing the sign in Germany can be punishable by law with anyone displaying it liable to prosecution which could result in a fine or jail time. Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Berlin have moved to ban the symbol which is used as a public signal of support for Russia in its war with Ukraine.
The “Z” sign has also been daubed on Russian military vehicles and uniforms with the letter understood to stand for “Za Pobedu” – “For Victory”.
It has also been displayed outside Russia and Ukraine on buildings, cars, clothing and on social media.
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak wore the symbol at a World Cup event in Doha in March. Kremlin-backed media outlet RT has launched merchandise which displays the letter.
Nord Rhine-Westphalia’s refugee minister Joachim Stamp said on Twitter: “The “Z” as a symbol of Putin’s fascism should be banned throughout Germany.”
Berlin Interior Senator Iris Spranger told Tagesspiegel: “If the context of the war is created with the use of the white ‘Z’, as can be seen on the Russian military vehicles, then of course that means advocating a war of aggression.
“That would be a punishable offence so we’ll intervene immediately.”
Michael Roth, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, tweeted: “The ‘Z’ has become a symbol of an authoritarian regime, which is conducting a terrible war of aggression, breaking international law, gagging freedom of expression and making lies the norm.”
The move has met with some resistance in Germany with commentator Sabine Beppler-Spahl accusing the German authorities of censoring views they disapprove of.
She said: “All this sets a dangerous precedent. If one minority opinion can be banned, then all other minority opinions can potentially be banned, too. We cannot build solidarity with Ukraine on the basis of censorship and illiberalism.”
Ms Beppler-Spahl described the Interior Ministry’s annoucement as opportunistic and authoritarian, adding that the “Z” symbol is not a very common sight in Germany.
She explained that there have been only 22 cases in Nord Rhine-Westphalia and “a handful” of cases in Berlin.
The correspondent went on to say that very few people support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, despite millions of people in Germany having Russian roots.
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Ms Beppler-Spahl, writing in Spiked, said: “Of course it is regrettable that some people choose to defend or support Putin’s attack on a sovereign nation. But no one, not even our politicians, can seriously believe that banning the ‘Z’ symbol will change their minds. On the contrary, it will probably embolden Russia’s supporters, who already claim to feel victimised by the West.”
She suggested that political insecurity may be behind moves to ban the sign after German politicians stand accused of having cultivated too close a relationship with Putin.
Ms Beppler-Spahl claimed that in banning the symbol politicians believe they are showing strength or backbone.
She continued: “But they’re doing nothing of the sort. They’re just encouraging a censorious, punitive approach to people who are deemed to have the wrong attitude towards the war in Ukraine.”
Berlin has made a number of policy U-turns since Russia invaded Ukraine, agreeing to send Kyiv weapons, suspending the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and vowing to ramp up its defence spending.
Ukrainian former boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, whose brother is mayor of Kyiv, heaped praise on Germany for its help after he met officials in Berlin on Saturday, April 2.
In a video shot outside the Bundestag and posted on his Twitter feed, Mr Klitschko said he had seen for himself during his two-day visit that the two nations were “truly brothers and sisters figuratively now” and he would never forget Germany’s support.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Instagram: “Klitschko and his delegation brought the Ukrainian fighting spirit that reaches us in countless images every day into the foreign ministry.
“For the government and me it is clear: we will continue to support Ukraine with all our force.”
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