Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many news outlets covered the exploits of a Ukrainian fighter pilot dubbed the “Ghost of Kyiv” who had — the rumors said — managed to shoot down dozens of Russian aircraft.
However, the Ukrainian government was forced to acknowledge this weekend that the legendary aviator doesn’t exist.
“Ghost of Kyiv” origin
According to the Washington Examiner, the myth was based on real-life pilot Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old father of one who died in combat on March 13.
The Examiner cited a Facebook post posted by Ukraine’s Air Force which praised Tarabalka for being a “hero” but stressed that he was “NOT ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ and he did NOT hit 40 planes.”
The post went on to add that the airman was “heroically killed in an air battle with the dominant forces of the Russian occupiers.”
The Examiner noted that following his death, Tarabalka was posthumously awarded both the Order of the Golden Star, as well as the title Hero of Ukraine.
Despite this announcement, The Times of London stated that some sources within Ukraine’s military still claim that the Ghost of Kyiv was a real figure.
Promoting the myth
“The Ghost of Kyiv is alive and embodies a collective image of the highly qualified pilots of the tactical aviation brigade successfully defending Kyiv and the surrounding region,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat was quoted as saying.
Among those who promoted the Ghost of Kyiv story was former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who tweeted out an image of a pilot shortly after the way began.
“In the photo – the MiG-29 pilot. The same ‘Ghost of Kiev,” the Examiner cited a translated version of Poroshenko’s remarks as reading.
“It terrifies enemies and pride Ukrainians. He has 6 victories over Russian pilots! With such powerful defenders, Ukraine will definitely win!”
Yet on Saturday, Turkish journalist Ragıp Soylu tweeted a statement from the Ukrainian military which explained that the Ghost of Kyiv is “a collective image of the pilots of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade defending the sky of the capital. Which suddenly appear where they are not expected.”