Numerous news outlets reported that the mythic “Ghost of Kyiv” had been killed in action after having shot down dozens of Russian aircraft.
The Ghost’s supposed identity was revealed. Reports claimed that the legendary pilot was Major Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old father who laid his life down in defense of his country. He allegedly met his end on March 13 after facing off against an “overwhelming” enemy force.
After being credited with the shooting down of as many as 40 Russian aircraft Tarabalka was given several of Ukraine’s top decorations including the title “Hero of Ukraine”.
Now, over the weekend, Ukrainian officials have admitted that Tarabalka was not the Ghost of Kyiv. Instead, the Ukrainian Air Force Command admitted on Facebook that the Ghost was a “superhero legend created by Ukrainians”.
In addition, the post specified that Tarabalka was heroically killed in battle, however, he absolutely did not take down 40 enemy air vehicles. While one person cannot be credited with such action against the Russian occupiers, Ukraine’s fighter pilots as a whole can be.
The legend seemed to stem from reports of lone pilots heroically taking on Russians in the air. As rumors and videos spread, bystanders presumed that each video was of the same pilot – thus the Ghost was born.
As the moniker gained popularity disinformation spread, hyper-realistic video game cut scenes were passed off online as footage of the Ghost in action. Old clips were re-circulated bringing even more attention to the legend.
“The #GhostOfKyiv 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 Ukrainian Air Force tweeted.