Ukraine admits 'Ghost of Kyiv' who slayed 40 Russian planes is a myth

Ukraine admits the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ fighter pilot hailed for shooting down 40 Russian planes is a myth after 29-year-old Major who was shot down last month was wrongly identified

  • Notorious symbol of Ukraine’s fighting spirit became famous in early days of war
  • But the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ is just a ‘superhero legend’, Ukraine’s air force confessed
  • ‘It is alive and embodies the collective spirit of pilots defending Kyiv’, army said 
  • Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, had been dubbed the ‘Ghost’ after he died in battle
  • Mythical character was thought to have slain 40 Russian warplanes around Kyiv 

Valiant fighter pilot the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’, who shot down 40 Russian warplanes to defend the capital, is just a myth, Ukraine has admitted.

The ‘Ghost’ was an inspiring symbol of Ukraine’s steadfast resistance against the Russian invasion.  

Air Force Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, was wrongly identified as the ‘Ghost’ in media reports, prompting the Ukrainian army to finally dispel the myth.

The air force wrote via Facebook on Saturday: ‘The Ghost of Kyiv is a super-hero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!’

Ukrainian air force Major Stepan Tarabalka (pictured left and right) is not the true ‘Ghost of Kyiv’, the army confessed, because there isn’t one. Tarabalka died in battle on March 13

Mr Tarabalka was a real pilot who died in battle on March 13. He was posthumously awarded the title Hero of Ukraine, Ukraine´s air force said last month.

But he was not the Ghost of Kyiv, the force said.

‘The information about the death of the The Ghost of Kyiv is incorrect,’ Ukraine´s air force wrote in a separate post Saturday on Twitter. 

‘The Ghost Of Kyiv is alive, it embodies the collective spirit of the highly qualified pilots of the Tactical Aviation Brigade who are successfully defending Kyiv and the region.’

The legend emerged just a day after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, as social media users began to spread claims of an anonymous fighter pilot who had single-handedly taken down scores of Russian planes.

Though he was never real, the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ is  alive in Ukrainian hearts, the army said. This image of an unidentified fighter pilot was shared by numerous army accounts and politicians

Memes, photos, and even footage from a flight simulator video game circulated on social media claimed to show the Ghost of Kyiv during combat.

A day later, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted a photo that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense had shared three years earlier, ‘showing’ the Ghost of Kyiv had taken down six Russian pilots.

Two days later, Ukraine’s official Twitter account shared a video including the same picture, along with footage of fighter jets in combat set to pulsating music with the caption: ‘People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. 

‘And rightly so – this UAF ace dominates the skies over our capital and country, and has already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircrafts.’

By the time news outlets falsely identified the pilot as Tarabalka on Friday, reports had increased the ghost’s toll to 40 planes.

Two days before his death, Ukraine’s General Staff shared this photo of the legendary fighter sitting in the cockpit. They captioned it: ‘Hello, occupier, I’m coming for your soul!’

Two days before his death, Ukraine’s General Staff shared a photo of the legendary fighter sitting in the cockpit.

They captioned it: ‘Hello, occupier, I’m coming for your soul!’

Tarabalka was born into a working class family in the village of Korolivka in the west of Ukraine.

He attended Kharkiv National University of the Air Force and leaves behind his wife Olenia and son Yarik, eight.

His mother Nahtalia said he used to watch MiG jets flying over their home and always dreamed of being a fighter pilot.

She said: ‘He would always watch the paratroopers in their air exercises. And he would run in their direction to try to see where they landed. Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, about flying higher than the clouds.’

Once qualified, he would regularly fly over their village and tilt the wings of his jet as a salute to the family.

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