Lithuania bans using letter 'Z' in protest over Russia's war in Ukraine

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The "Z" symbol is seen painted on a destroyed Russian anti-aircraft ZSU system, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the village of Husarivka, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, April 14, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

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VILNIUS, April 19 (Reuters) - Lithuania's parliament on Tuesday voted to ban public displays of the letter "Z", the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter "Z", and it has started appearing on social media and on clothing elsewhere in support of the war.

Meanwhile the ribbon of St George, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking world since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

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To an earlier ban on public displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols, parliament added a provision for "the symbols of totalitarian or authoritarian regimes used in the past or currently use to promote military aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed or perpetrated by them."

Lawmakers also approved that fines for breaching the ban should be raised to 900 euros ($827) for persons and up to 1,500 euros for companies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on what he calls a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The Lithuanian decision comes after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova. Germany was also considering such ban. read more

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in March called for a universal ban of the political use of the letter "Z," saying it signified "Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians."

(This story corrects headline to clarify the ban is a protest against Russia and not a show of support)

($1 = 0.9193 euros)

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Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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