Russian Z symbol t-shirts: why did Amazon have Z sign shirts for sale on its website - and what does it mean?

The online retailer had been selling the items up until Tuesday morning

Amazon has stopped selling clothing emblazoned with the Russian military ‘Z’ symbol after it was criticised on social media.

The online retailer had been selling the items up until Tuesday (8 March) morning before removing them from its site.

At least eight t-shirts and tops, priced between £11.99 and £20.99, were on sale with the description: “Russian Z symbol military armed forces tanks armour t-shirt.”

Four of them were even available for delivery on Amazon Prime - meaning customers could have received the product the next day.

One tweeter said: “Really Amazon is this true? If so, I don’t want to buy anything from you in the future!”

Graham Whitham also tweeted: “Saw a post saying you can get Russian ‘Z’ branded clothes on Amazon. Didn’t believe it, but turns out you can. Disgusting. Take them down Amazon.”

Here we take a look at Amazon’s response, the meaning of the ‘Z’ symbol and what measures the online retailer has taken since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What has Amazon said?

Amazon has stopped selling clothing emblazoned with the Russian military ‘Z’ symbol after it was criticised on social media (NationalWorld)

NationalWorld approached Amazon for a comment but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

As well as being asked about these specific t-shirts, NationalWorld also asked what checks are in place to stop offensive items from being sold on its platform.

What is the ‘Z’ symbol?

The ‘Z’ symbol has been adopted by those who are supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It has been used by politicians and sports stars, as well as being seen on advertising boards and bus shelters in Russia.

Russian politicians have released videos instructing people how to use the symbol on work uniforms to show quiet support of the assault.

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak wore the ‘Z’ symbol on his outfit after winning a bronze medal at the Doha World Cup competition.

The 20-year-old was condemned by the International Gymnastics Federation after he was pictured wearing the symbol beside gold medal-winning Ukrainian gymnast Kovtun Illia.

It has also been spotted on Russian tanks in Ukraine.

What does the ‘Z’ symbol mean?

There are a number of different theories behind the origin of the ‘Z’ symbol.

Initially, it was thought that the ‘Z’ was actually a ‘2’ and represented the date of 22 February 2022. This is when Russia recognised the independence of separatist Ukrainian regions Luhansk and Donetsk.

However, experts dismissed this theory with the suggestion that the ‘Z’ is just a simple icon that allows Russian troops to identify their own tanks.

Speaking to Russian magazine Life, Russian special forces veteran Sergey Kuvykin said: “Symbols like these are used - a ‘Z’ in a square, a ‘Z’ in a circle, a ‘Z’ with a star or simply ‘Z’ on its own.”

It has also been suggested that the sign represents the phrase ‘for victory’ as written in Russian.

Has Amazon announced any measures against Russia?

A screenshot of the Russian ‘Z’ symbol t-shirts on sale on Amazon (NationalWorld)

They include Apple, who has stopped sales of iPhones and other products in the country, and PayPal who shut down its services in Russia.

Amazon announced on February 28 that it would donate $5 million (£3.8m) to organisations providing support on the ground in Ukraine.

The company also pledged to match up to $5 million in additional donations from its employees.

Amazon has also provided cyber security assistance to customers in Ukraine to try and prevent potential cyber attacks.

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