The mysterious pilot, who is said to have shot down more than 40 Russian planes, was a made-up “legend” all along and was meant to embody “the collective spirit” of the entire Ukrainian Air Force
Image: Armed Forces of Ukraine)
Ukrainian officials have finally admitted that the “ghost of Kyiv” never existed.
The fearsome fighter pilot, who is said to have shot down more than 40 Russian planes since the invasion began, has been a made-up “legend” all along, confirming what many had suspected.
Rumors of a mysterious pilot with a massive body count were encouraged by the Ukrainian government to boost morale, with the legend first finding fame thanks to a viral Twitter video showing an artist’s impression of him.
“People call him the ghost of Kyiv,” read the tweet posted on Feb. 27.
“And rightly so – dominating the skies over our capital and country, this UAF (Ukrainian Air Force) ace has already become a nightmare for invading Russian planes.”
Several videos claiming to show the Ghost of Kyiv went viral online when they actually showed planes in a video game. He also appeared on merchandise such as t-shirts and bags.
Many suspected the character had been invented to inspire civilians to resist the Russian invasion and doubted his MiG-29 Fulcrum would have enough ammunition for the reported attack, but officials continued to insist it was real – until now.
Last week, Major Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old pilot shot down on March 13, was identified as the inspiration for the mythical Ghost.
His achievements in battle seem to have been somewhat exaggerated, although he was certainly a distinguished war hero.
“Ghost of Kyiv is a superhero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!” The Air Force Command of Ukraine wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
“Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ and he did NOT shoot down 40 planes.”
Officials clarified that the nickname referred to all of Ukraine’s heroic fighter pilots.
“The #GhostOfKyiv is alive. He embodies the collective spirit of the highly skilled Tactical Aviation Brigade pilots successfully defending #Kyiv and the region,” the command tweeted.
Many still want to celebrate the legendary pilot, even if he wasn’t a specific person.
“True or not, this is EXACTLY the kind of inspirational story the Resistance needs right now,” said one Twitter user in response to the news.
Major Tarabalka came from a working-class family and was born in the small village of Korolivka in western Ukraine, reports The Times.
He graduated from the Kharkiv National University of the Air Force.
He is survived by his wife Olenia and their eight-year-old son Yarik.
After his death, Major Tarabalka was posthumously awarded Ukraine’s highest medal for bravery in battle, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title of Hero of Ukraine.
His parents gave an interview to NPR in which his mother, Nahtalia, described watching MiG jets fly over their house as a boy.
From that moment he was determined to become a fighter pilot.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/ukraine-admits-ghost-kyiv-never-26846586 Ukraine admits 'Ghost of Kyiv' never really existed after heroic 'death' in battle - World News