Russia Launches Soyuz Space Rocket Bearing Infamous Letter Z Seen On Tanks Invading Ukraine

Russia has launched a Soyuz space rocket bearing the infamous letter ‘Z’, as seen on tanks invading Ukraine.

The launch is reportedly of a military communications satellite set to orbit the Earth. It is Russia’s second spacecraft launch since it invaded Ukraine on Thursday, 24th February.

Newsflash obtained images of the launch, which took place yesterday, from the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), which said: “The Soyuz-2.1a space rocket has joined the #ZaNashikh support action for Russian servicemen!”

The Preparation of the Soyuz-2.1 with the letter ‘Z’ written on it from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia. (@mod.mil.rus/Newsflash)

Footage of the launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in north-western Russia, released by the Russian MoD yesterday evening (Tuesday), reportedly shows the Soyuz spacecraft taking off from its launchpad at 8.48am local time, according to the Russian, state-owned news agency Ria.

A second piece of footage reportedly shows the launch preparation procedure, with the large rocket being carried horizontally by a large transport vehicle to the launchpad.

The long focal then rotates the rocket into a vertical position, with the top part of the rocket bearing the letter ‘Z’, which the camera focuses on for a few seconds, as if to make a statement.

The launch of rocket Soyuz-2.1 with the letter ‘Z’ written on it from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia. (Ministry of Defense of Russia/Newsflash)

The Russian Armed Forces have been daubing their military vehicles with the letter ‘Z’ during their invasion of Ukraine, apparently to distinguish themselves from Ukrainian forces. The letter has since gained traction within Russia as a symbol of support for the invasion.

It is currently unclear if the move breaches any parts of the United Nations’ 1966 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, which states that space exploration “shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries…and shall be the province of all mankind” and that it is “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.

The treaty, which is available on the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs website, also states that “[s]tates shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner”.

The launch of rocket Soyuz-2.1 with the letter ‘Z’ written on it from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia. (Ministry of Defense of Russia/Newsflash)

It at least appears that Russia is complying with the part of the treaty that states that “astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind”, as it has denied media reports that it was considering stranding an American astronaut on the International Space Station.

Russia has stated that it will indeed be giving Mark Vande Hei a ride home despite tensions between the West and the Kremlin over Russia’s illegal invasion of its neighbour, Ukraine.

Russia has also denied that its ISS cosmonauts wore yellow and blue suits to support Ukraine, with cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev saying that the colours, which are those of the Ukrainian flag, had been selected because they are the colours of the university from which they graduated, the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

The launch of rocket Soyuz-2.1 with the letter ‘Z’ written on it from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia. (Ministry of Defense of Russia/Newsflash)

The cosmonaut had reportedly originally said that they had selected the colours because they had a lot of yellow material.

The UN’s International Court of Justice has ruled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine illegal and has ordered Russian President Vladimir Putin to remove his troops immediately. Former British Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown have called for the creation of a Nuremberg-style international tribunal to investigate Putin.

The proposal has been co-signed by 140 intellectuals and academics, as well as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Benjamin Ferencz, who is 102 years old and who prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

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