As the global condemnation of Russia grows over its invasion of Ukraine, disturbing photos reveal one European nation is showing signs of bucking the trend.
Yesterday, the world's attention turned to Vladimir Putin once more, as the Russian President observed Victory Day – a symbolic day on the Russian calendar which celebrates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the end of World War II in Europe.
But as Moscow put on a show as expected, the day was also observed in Serbia and Serbian areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where pro-Russian marches were organised.
In the Serbian capital of Belgrade, military jet flyovers were staged and the Russian anthem was played, with participants laying wreaths in honour of World War II victims.
The event was attended by a number of Serbian officials and Russia's ambassador to Serbia, but all eyes were on some members of the crowd who marched with cardboard cutouts of Putin – and the infamous Z symbols.
The Z marking – first spotted on Russian military vehicles in Ukraine's breakaway Donetsk region shortly before the February 24 invasion – has since become a symbol of pro-war Russians, popping up on billboards, Russian tanks, a Russian gymnast's outfit and even the walls of a bunker in a children's hospital.
There has been widespread speculation about what the Z stands for, with the Russian defence ministry declaring on its Instagram that Z means "Za pobedu" ("for victory"), while other military experts argued the letter was used to mark where troops were being stationed, with Z standing for Zapad (west).
Others claim the letter was used in an attempt to avoid friendly fire, while there's also a theory Z stands for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
But regardless of its original meaning, the Z has now become a controversial sign of support for the invasion, with Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba recently calling for it to be banned, with anyone caught using it as a way to support Russia hit with criminal charges.
Serbia's pro-Russian moves
The appearance of the Z symbols at the parade has been seen as a disturbing sign that support for Russia and the invasion of Ukraine is growing in Serbia.
And Serbian politician Nenad Popovic did little to allay those fears, declaring to the media: "Serbia and Russia have always been on the right side of history."
It was a similar story in the Republika Srpska region of Bosnia and Herzegovina where marches were also held, with attendees waving banners in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and "the fight against Nazism in Ukraine and the world" – a reference to the unfounded claim the invasion was being staged by Russia to stamp out Nazism in Ukraine.
Serbia has long been an ally of Russia, with Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic – who was recently re-elected in a landslide – aligning himself with Putin and previously describing the Russian leader as a "friend" of his nation.
However, like fellow Russian ally Hungary, Serbia has attempted to have its cake and eat it too by signing a UN resolution against Russia's actions in Ukraine but also refusing to roll out sanctions targeting Moscow.
Serbia's stance could come back to bite it though, given the nation desperately wants to join the EU – which expects its members to fall into line with the EU's foreign policy.
In fact, a recent European Parliament resolution specifically slammed the nation, declaring that it "strongly regrets Serbia's non-alignment with EU sanctions against Russia, which damages its EU accession process".