Since February 24, authorities across multiple German regions have launched more than 140 investigations into acts seen as endorsements of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported on Monday, citing regional internal and justice ministers.
In the majority of cases, those suspected had displayed the letter ‘Z’, the ubiquitous marking on Russian equipment in Ukraine that has become a sign of support for Moscow’s offensive. In Saxony-Anhalt, for instance, 17 out of 19 such cases revolve around the letter, while in the city-state of Hamburg, 16 out of 17 probes were launched for that reason.
In a number of German regions, the ‘Z’ symbol has been deemed off limits since late February. A spokesperson for Saxony-Anhalt’s interior ministry told RND that “display of this symbol in public in connection with the Russian aggressive war leads to the launch of an investigation,” if the authorities construe the letter as an endorsement of Moscow’s actions.
German authorities invoke Section 140 of the country’s criminal code, according to which people endorsing the criminal acts of others can face a fine or even up to three years behind bars.