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Tartu courthouse wall defaced with 'Z' symbols

Tartu Courthouse.
Tartu Courthouse. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Rooms inside Tartu Courthouse (Tartu kohtumaja) were last Friday defaced with several symbols evoking war and more specifically Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The graffiti appeared on walls inside the building last Friday evening, at a time when celebrations of Tartu's status as European Capital of Culture 2024 were ongoing.

A court spokesperson subsequently said that: "At this moment and based on information available, there is basis to conclude that the creator of symbols similar to known symbols of war was a person from outside the court, who was inside the courthouse at that time, and not the court employees who accompanied them."

Evening paper Õhtuleht reports on its website that specifically the symbol was the now notorious "Z" character, which was found to be emblazoned on the walls of rooms inside the courthouse and which were accessed by the court employees during the course of the night.

As of the time of writing, the offending graffiti had been cleaned from the walls, Õhtuleht reports.

The three people, two court employees and one other individual, had entered the courthouse outside of working hours, the court says.

The court has made a statement to the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) regarding the incident, and says it has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the court employees.

The courthouse, on Kalevi street, hosts the Tartu county court, administrative court, and the second-tier circuit court.

Tiina Erebi, director of Tartu courts, called the incident "extremely unfortunate" and one which the courts condemn unequivocally. "Given to the role of the court in society, there can be no justification for an act such as this," Erebi said.

Last Friday night, January 26, had seen several major events and festivities in Tartu, heralding its status for this year as European Capital of Culture.

The non-cyrillic "Z" character is the most well-known of several used as unit identifiers by Russian forces in the initial stages of the invasion of Ukraine, from February 24, 2022, and was often painted on the side of military vehicles for that purpose.

It soon became a symbol displayed on cars, clothing etc. by those who wished to make a public statement in support of that invasion. Doing so is banned in Estonia.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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