A Russian troop walks next to an armoured vehicle with symbol "Z" painted on its side. (Reuters)
Tanks and Russian military vehicles have become common in Ukraine now. Since the Ukraine war began 13 days ago, these vehicles are roaming around near Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities sporting a “Z” marking painted on their sides.
Social media is full of the images of the white emblem, stylized in a thick brushstroke. Many protesters, particularly those supporting Russia, have been found wearing them on t-shirts too.
What is the meaning of the "Z" symbol?
According to Galina Starovoitova Fellow Kamil Galeev, "Z" is a letter that Russian Military are putting on their vehicles departing to Ukraine. "Some interpret "Z" as "Za pobedy" (for victory). Others - as "Zapad" (West),” the scholar said on Twitter.
“This symbol invented just a few days ago became a symbol of new Russian ideology and national identity,” he added.
The symbol has found many supporters. Many Russian civilians and business owners are putting “Z” on their cars without being forced.
Other observers said that these markings act as signals to fellow Russians to identify their own vehicles in the warzone and avoid friendly fire.
Last month, Professor Michael Clarke, former director of the defence think tank RUSI, told Sky News that these symbols communicate the location of a unit or vehicles.
When the symbol was first spotted?
The "Z" symbol was first spotted on February 22, on Russian vehicles that entered the Donetsk region. There are tweets which claim that the symbol could be a way to delineate infantries.
The "Z" symbol also appeared on vehicles in Crimea, when it was annexed by Russia in 2014, according to The Independent.
What are the other symbols visible in Ukraine war?
Apart from "Z", other symbols painted on the Russian military vehicles are a triangle with two lines on either side, a circle with three dots inside and a large triangle with a smaller triangle inside.
Russian military officials have officially not said anything about the symbols.
What is the latest situation in Ukraine?
Russia announced new "humanitarian corridors" to transport Ukrainians trapped under its bombardment, a move immediately dismissed by Kyiv as an immoral stunt. Ukraine warned that Moscow was trying to manipulate French President Emmanuel Macron and other Western leaders by demanding evacuation routes leading into Russian or Belarusian territory.
A Russian delegation, meanwhile, has departed for Belarus where it will meet Ukrainian negotiators for the third round of talks about ending hostilities, the Sputnik Belarus news outlet reported.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its twelfth day, has seen more than 1.5 million people flee the country in what the UN has called Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.