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As the Russian invasion of Ukraine dragged into its second week, photos have emerged of Russian tanks and uniforms emblazoned with various symbols, including “Z” and “V,” leading to speculation about their precise meaning and origins.
The matter made headlines Sunday after Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak was seen sporting a “Z” on his chest while competing at Apparatus World Cup in Doha, Qatar alongside Ukrainians.
Commentators agree that “Z” broadly signifies support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But its exact meanings, along with its counterpart “V,” could run much deeper.
“Z” could have dual meanings, “Zapad” (the west) or “Z” for Ukrainian President Volodomyr “Zelensky,” while “V” could possibly stand for “Vostok” (the east).
“The Russians love symbolism,” former intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler told Fox News. “It’s usually not just one thing.”
Another possible use of these symbols could be to distinguish Russian military equipment from Ukrainian military equipment.
Despite either letter not appearing in the Cyrillic alphabet, both the “V” and “Z” symbols are displayed on the Russian military’s official Instagram page.
In one post, a Russian soldier is featured with a “Z” superimposed over the photo.
“They protect you and the world. Let’s support our guys,” the caption reads.
Koffler told Fox News the Russians may be using Latin symbols as a signal that the war in Ukraine is part of a grander conflict between the Atlanticism of the west and the Eurasianism of the east.
“Russia perceives itself as neither European nor Asian, but Eurasian,” Koffler said. “This is how they view it. It’s not about Ukraine, it’s east against west. They want to control Eurasia and they don’t want the U.S. or China to be in that position of dominant power.”