The "Z" was chosen by the Kremlin as a propaganda symbol for the attack on Ukraine.

According to experts in international law, the alleged special operation is a war of aggression that violates international law.

This raises the question of how to deal with a public display of the "Z" in Germany.

Because such cases are piling up.

A few examples: In Würzburg, five “Z”s were sprayed on a church.

In Hildesheim, cars belonging to Ukrainian refugees were daubed with the “Z”.

In Rinteln, on the other hand, a family of Russian origin put the “Z” and a Russian flag on their car.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.

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Several state governments have now announced criminal consequences.

Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) issued a decree to his police authorities that people who publicly use the "Z" to signal their approval of Putin's war of aggression "must expect criminal consequences in Lower Saxony".

This led to reports in many media that the SPD politician had banned the “Z” in his country.

From other countries such as Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania it was reported that the CDU opposition there also campaigned for a ban on the "Z".

The Göttingen criminal law professor Uwe Murmann is irritated by such reports.

"Countries that act as if they can invent traceability here give the wrong impression," says Murmann.

"The corresponding legal norm already exists, and the public prosecutor's offices have to investigate here independently of ministerial instructions."

Capable of disturbing the public peace

Relevant for the "Z" is paragraph 140 number 2 of the Criminal Code, according to which the public approval of a war of aggression can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years.

However, the approval must be done in a way “that is likely to disturb the public peace”.

There are different opinions among lawyers on the interpretation of this requirement.

You have to consider "every single case", says Murmann, but you can see a wide range of possible applications: wearing a T-shirt with a "Z" in the pedestrian zone or raising a "Z" flag in the allotment garden colony could be sufficient.

The use of the "Z" is a symbolically abbreviated expression of opinion.

Prohibiting the "Z" would be superfluous

It is crucial that it happens publicly and intentionally, so one can assume that the suspect knows that he is positioning himself for a war of aggression.

On the other hand, if an employee of Zurich Insurance wears an old T-shirt with the “Z” company symbol (which the insurance company currently refrains from using on social media), this is not a criminal offence.

Murmann considers the introduction of a new criminal code specifically for the “Z” to be superfluous.

"The advantage of our abstract legal norms is that we can subsume new developments and do not need any action from the legislature."

In the case of the daubed church and daubed cars, property damage is also an option.

The Russian-born "Z" fans from Rinteln, however, allowed themselves to be carried away to insult the police officers who rushed to the scene.

That is why it is now being investigated.

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