Russia Today has been slammed for selling ‘Z’ merchandise to support the country’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
The state-controlled TV network started flogging items with the logo – which was on the side of military vehicles – to ‘support our guys’ in the war.
It said the cash raised ‘will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project’.
Westerners slammed the channel for capitalising on the war but some joked the ‘Z’ stood for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It comes as Tory MPs demanded the TV regulator take action against RT after it called the invasion of Ukraine a ‘special military operation’ to ‘liberate’ the country.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was among those to tell Ofcom to take ‘timely and transparent’ action against the channel.
The state-controlled TV network started flogging the items over the weekend to ‘support our guys’ in the war
It said the cash raised ‘will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project’. Pictured: A tank with the marking on last week
RT posted a link to its ‘Z’ merchandise on social media on Sunday morning, saying the channel has ‘new merch’.
The tweet showed a number of tops in a range of sizes featuring the logo, on sale for around £12.
The message read: ‘RT has new merch. Let’s support our guys in Ukraine. We will start sending Z to our friends tomorrow.
‘All proceeds from sales will go to help the refugees of Donbass and the heroes of the RT Children of War project.’
The symbol has been widely seen on Russian tanks and other military vehicles streaking across the border into Ukraine over the last few days.
It is believed to have been painted on the side of them to avoid friendly fire during the fog of war, or to note where they are heading.
Professor Michael Clarke, former director of the defence think tank Rusi, told Sky: ‘Often these symbols will be location based – they will be communicating where a unit is heading.
‘If they were only to mark the vehicles as being Russian, you could just use one symbol.
‘The fact that they are different tells you more – they are probably signs which tell you which units are heading to the north-east or north-west of a district, for example.’
The tactic mirrors what UK and US forces used in the First Gulf War when the allies sent to liberate Kuwait marked vehicles with a distinctive upturned chevron [^].
Russia also used similar tactics on military vehicles when its army invaded Crimea in 2014.
Westerners were repulsed by RT’s new merchandise, with some saying those working for the organisation should be ‘disgusted’.
Francis Scarr, who works for BBC Monitoring in Moscow, tweeted: ‘Nothing to see here.
‘Just Russian state broadcaster @RT_com selling merchandise endorsing the war in Ukraine.’
Moscow correspondent for the Guardian Andrew Roth posted: ‘I hope that there are RT employees who are disgusted by their employer putting out merchandise for a war in Ukraine. This can’t be what you want. If it isn’t, step up and say so.’
Another put: ‘Military propaganda has always been RT’s core mission; their employees should know that.’
And one man joked on his Twitter page: ‘What does it mean? Does ‘Z’ refer to Zelensky.’ RT has been approached for comment.
Tory MPs over the weekend have led calls for Russia Today to be banned from airing in the UK.
Misinformation about the conflict includes the notion Ukrainian soldiers are ‘radical nationalists’ who are defending a genocide against Russians.
Its reporters also insisted the Russian military is not targeting civilians, despite images of bloodied Ukrainians and bombed-out towerblocks.
A reporter on Friday evening also compared a law signed by Ukraine’s Jewish President Zelensky to the policies of Adolf Hitler.
Culture Secretary Ms Dorries last week told Ofcom to take ‘timely and transparent’ action against the channel.
But criticism of RT was shrugged off by former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said on the station last week: ‘I have never seen propaganda. I’ve never seen a lie.’
Despite an expectation that Ofcom would crack down on RT, a spokeswoman last night admitted that no new action had been taken.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said RT was ‘not an information network, it’s a weapon against us’.
‘So, what is it doing on our screens when media watchdog Ofcom already has the power to take action?’ he added.
The Kremlin-funded news channel, which launched in 2005, is run by Putin’s ally Margarita Simonyan, who once said that RT would conduct ‘an information war against the Western world’. (Above, Putin and Simonyan in May 2019)
Tory MPs have demanded the TV regulator take immediate action against Russia Today after it described Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a ‘special military operation’ to ‘liberate’ the country
The Kremlin-funded channel, which launched in 2005, is run by Putin’s ally Margarita Simonyan, who once said RT would conduct ‘an information war against the West’.
On Wednesday, she wrote on Twitter the invasion was ‘a standard parade rehearsal’, adding: ‘Except this year we have decided to hold the parade in Kyiv.’
Similarly outrageous opinions about the invasion have been spouted by the channel in the past week.
Analysis shows it only refers to the conflict as a ‘special military operation’ and reporters cite the Russian claim that it will ‘liberate the territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk peoples’ republics’.
On Thursday, news presenter Rory Suchet – the son of ITN journalist John Suchet – repeated Russian defence ministry claims that ‘direct fighting with Ukraine soldiers has largely been avoided’, despite clear pictorial evidence of clashes.
And on Friday, a voiceover on a package ostensibly to explain the origins of Russia’s aggression described a law signed by President Zelensky last July as ‘almost a direct copy of a 1935 Reich citizenship law of Hitler’s Germany’.
The Mail on Sunday can also reveal that at least 20 current and former British MPs have received almost £100,000 from the channel to speak on its programmes since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Those who have appeared include Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng, who was paid £750 for an appearance in February 2017 before he was appointed Business Secretary.
On Wednesday, Simonyan (above) wrote on Twitter that the invasion was ‘a standard parade rehearsal’, adding: ‘Except this year we have decided to hold the parade in Kyiv.’ Similarly outrageous opinions about the invasion have been spouted by the channel in the past week
Europe Minister James Cleverly appeared on RT in 2016 to discuss the Tory leadership campaign, but said he did not accept payment.
‘RT has become considerably more partisan since then and is now a regular mouthpiece for pro Kremlin disinformation,’ he added. ‘I would not appear now.’
Labour MP Richard Burgon has appeared 11 times and Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell at least three times since 2014. Labour frontbencher David Lammy has earned £2,000 for two appearances.
Mr Campbell said he has ‘refused many invitations to appear since those interviews, because I do think it has been much clearer in recent years the extent to which it has become Putin’s personal propaganda tool’.
A spokesman for Ofcom said: ‘All licensees must observe Ofcom’s rules, including due accuracy and due impartiality. If broadcasters break those rules, we will not hesitate to step in.’
Last night, a number of Russian TV channels appeared to have been hacked, with Ukrainian songs replacing usual programming. Russian Government webpages were down, while RT went offline for several hours.
It was unclear who the hackers are, but the Anonymous group have declared they are ‘at war’ with Russia.
TOM TUGENDHAT: Russia Today TV channel is nothing but poison, smears and anti-British propaganda, and should have been banned by Ofcom
by Tom Tugendhat for the Mail on Sunday
It’s been years since the Russian state even vaguely pretended to be honest. By lying about an invasion, a genocide and a war, Moscow has perfected the art of deception to the point where the only correct action is to ignore what comes out of the Kremlin.
That said, Putin’s propaganda is pumped into homes across Britain by his official broadcaster Russia Today (RT).
During the early stages of Covid, the channel spread fear and panic, trying to tear apart our community and undermine our response.
When British firms discovered a vaccine, RT spread lies trying to convince people not to take it, costing lives.
During the early stages of Covid, RT spread fear and panic, trying to tear apart our community and undermine our response
Time and again, the English-language service has done its best to confuse and undermine Britons at times when clarity was so important. It’s not an information network. It’s a weapon against us.
Our media watchdog, Ofcom, should have banned RT. If it had, viewers would not have been exposed to a correspondent called Rory Suchet (who began his career as a pop music radio DJ), claiming to report from eastern Ukraine as he lied that Russian tanks were helping to ‘liberate’ the region and that the Ukrainians defending their homes were nationalists and neo-Nazi battalions.
The channel disgracefully allowed a Russian military commander to claim that the Ukrainian army was using civilians as human shields. They’re not.
RT is trying to excuse the Kremlin for war crimes being committed by Putin. It gives a platform to charlatans and liars – people such as Alex Salmond (above), the leader of Scotland’s independence movement at the last referendum, who was happy to take RT money until this week
Make no mistake, RT is trying to excuse the Kremlin for war crimes being committed by Putin.
It gives a platform to charlatans and liars – people such as Alex Salmond, the leader of Scotland’s independence movement at the last referendum, who was happy to take RT money until this week.
Ken Stone, from Stop the War in Canada, still goes on to blame Ukrainians being in front of Putin’s tanks.
There’s nothing anti-Russian about wanting to shut down this modern-day version of Lord Haw-Haw’s propaganda broadcasts during the Second World War.
Russia’s poets and scientists have long shared deeper truths with us and worked on building understanding.
RT does the reverse. Even its name is a lie.
This channel doesn’t speak for a nation but a single person.
This is Putin’s propaganda, and it’s poison. It’s time Ofcom acted.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk