Ukraine: What are the letters and symbols painted on Russian military vehicles?

As Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine continues, you may have noticed certain letters and symbols painted on the side of Russian vehicles and helicopters.

Footage coming out of Ukraine has led to theories about their possible meanings – particularly the letter 'Z'.

Seen on everything from Army trucks to main battle tanks, the letter 'Z' has transcended military use – emerging as a unifying symbol for pro-war supporters in Russia.

At the weekend, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak wore the symbol on his vest while competing at a competition in Qatar – something for which he is now facing disciplinary action.

But, is the letter nothing more than an identifiable marking to simply help prevent friendly fire incidents between different sections of Russia's vast military?

Watch: UK will continue to stand up to the 'bully' Putin, Labour leader says.

Maria Domanska, an analyst at the Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, told Forces News it is not a coincidence.

She added the use of the letter 'Z' is that it is "a totally new symbol".

"I mean even if it existed before in a military language, let's say, it didn't exist in Russian cultural code in any way," she said.

Ms Domanska said the creating the symbol out of nothing and "overwhelming the public" with it is just another example that "Russian propaganda has reached some kind of Orwellian momentum".

She also said one of the main theories behind the use of the letter 'Z' is based on English words used in the West.

Ms Domanska said it "refers to the English words of 'demilitarization' and 'denazification' of Ukraine".

Watch: Increasing concern Russia will turn to chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

"Which are two of several declared goals of this military invasion," she said.

Russia has pushed videos and images online featuring the 'Z' symbol, but it should be said that there are other letters and symbols appearing on the side of Russian military vehicles.

In other militaries around the world, it is common for letters or symbols to be used to help identify different friendly forces.

Perhaps the truth behind the symbol's use in the war no longer really matters.

Beyond it featuring on the side of tanks, Putin has succeeded in creating a symbol for his invasion of Ukraine.

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