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'Z = zombie': Ukrainian rally in Dublin calls for banning of Russian war symbols

Concerns were also raised about Russian Victory Day commemorations on 9 May.

20220414_121921 Today's Leinster House protest Source: The Journal

A PROTEST BY members of the Ukrainian community was held outside Leinster House this afternoon calling on Irish politicians to ban the display of “Russian war symbols” in Ireland.

The campaign, which is backed by the Ukrainian Embassy here, comes after videos and images emerged last weekend of a pro-Russian protest in Dublin which used pro-war symbols

The letter ‘Z’ has become a symbol of support for the Russian invasion since it began in late February. As well as being displayed on Russian tanks in Ukraine, it has also been displayed on billboards, clothing and apartment blocks in Russia.

Over 100 people attended today’s protest today which was organised by the Ukrainian Crisis Centre in Ireland (UCCI). 

Protesters said that the pro-war symbols include the Z symbol, the V symbol and the Georgian ribbon, a reference to the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. 

Several people spoke about the display of the symbol on Irish streets and said not only did it show support for “murder, rape and genocide” but that it is also designed to intimidate. 

UCCI spokesperson Nick Kozlov compared the ‘Z’ symbol to the Nazi ‘SS’ symbol and said that any attempts by Russia to downplay the significance of it are lies.

“The ambassador of Russia Yury Filatov stood in front of Irish politicians and said there was no plan to attack. It’s the same thing with the letters. They use it to misinform and say ‘it’s only a letter’. Yes it is only a letter but it’s a letter that is worn by people killing Ukrainian children, women and civilians,” he said.  

Kozlov told The Journal that the display of the symbol is an affront to a democratic country like Ireland. 

It’s an outrage and we are appalled that these symbols could be freely used and abused in a democratic State to represent a system of war. It is an abuse of the democratic structure of Ireland.

Kozlov said he accepts that freedom of expression is also part of a democratic state but that there are examples around the world of the banning of symbols, such as the banning of the swastika in Germany. 

I believe that the Irish government could do that by law and prohibit the public display of the swastika and other war signs. I don’t want to abuse the letter Z in the Latin alphabet but when the letter becomes a war sign it’s not any more just a letter but a war crime. 

Kozlov also raised particular concern about the Russian holiday of Victory Day 9 May, which commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany. He said he is concerned that some members of the Russian community here may use the Z symbol on that day.

20220414_121601 Ielizaveta Karamushka at today's protest. Source: The Journal

Protesters at the event displayed banners outlining the anger and pain they felt upon seeing the images of the letter Z being displayed in Ireland. 

Ielizaveta Karamushka said that her uncle had been killed last month in the war and that the Z symbol is designed to impose hurt on Ukrainian people. 

“It’s targeting the most painful point now, it makes us come back to the horror of what is happening in Ukraine. No matter if they try to declare that they are just letters but the letter ‘S’ was just a letter before ‘SS’.” 

Karamushka said it would be unthinkable that the display of the letter could be allowed as world leaders are declare that war crimes and genocide is being committed by Russia in Ukraine. 

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“Allowing those war signs to be circulated around Ireland is not acceptable. They’re clearly failing to protect our feelings of safety here,” she said.  

Source: Rónán Duffy/YouTube

Labour leader Ivana Bacik was present to offer support to the members of the Ukrainian community and also spoke as part of the protest. 

She described the ‘Z’ symbol as “very, very toxic” and that its use should be “reduced and suppressed”.

She said that while she is opposed to the use of the Z symbol, current garda public order powers could be used to stop such displays in the future. 

“We don’t in Ireland have a history of banning symbols, unlike say in Germany where you have that legislative framework, we don’t have that framework. But what I think we can use is policing powers under Public Order legislation, where gardaí can use that legislation to stop protests that are intimidatory.” 

Bacik added: “I said to the organisers that I’m happy to support them in using the mechanisms that we have in law to do that.”

The Dublin Bay South TD also said that this issue may “come to a head” on 9 May and that she will engage with gardaí on the matter, adding that they “will be well aware”. 

In response to the Ukrainian Embassy’s call for the Z symbol to be banned, a Russian Embassy spokesperson told The Journal: “The Embassy does not comment on the activities of other Embassies based in Dublin.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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