According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the following symbols and corresponding meanings have been used by the Russian Armed Forces during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine:[5]

Z: Russian forces from the Eastern Military District
🅉 (enclosed in square): Russian forces from Crimea
O: Forces from Belarus
V: Marines
X: Forces from Chechnya (Kadyrovtsy)
A: Special forces, including SOBR, Alpha Group, and the Special Operations Forces
The invasion has acquired the nickname "Operation Z", derived from the "Z" symbol.[6] The symbol is in the form of the Latin letter Z, instead of the equivalent Cyrillic letter З used in the Russian alphabet, which has been described as peculiar considering the symbol's theme of Russian nationalism.[7]

The "Z" has been used as a pro-war symbol to represent support for the invasion despite the ambiguity of its meaning.[8][9]

On Instagram, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) posted on 3 March that the "Z" symbol is an abbreviation of the phrase "for victory" (Russian: за победу, romanized: za pobedu), while the "V" symbol stands for "our strength is in truth" [ru] (Russian: сила в правде, romanized: sila v pravde) and "the task will be completed" (Russian: задача будет выполнена, romanized: zadacha budet vypolnena).[10][11][12] The MoD later suggested alternative meanings for "Z", including "for peace" (Russian: за мир, romanized: za mir), "for truth" (Russian: за правду, romanized: za pravdu), and the letter Z inside the English words demilitarization and denazification – which Russian President Vladimir Putin has asserted to be the purpose of the invasion.[13][14]

Another interpretation for "Z" is the Russian word for west (Russian: запад, romanized: zapad), to designate the Western Military District or west-bound infantry, or more generally to underline the Kremlin's imperial ambitions.[15][16][17] This term was used in the Zapad joint military exercises between Belarus and Russia before the invasion.