After Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, the legend of the Ukrainian pilot who had shot down 40 enemy planes to defend the capital became very popular on social networks.
However, ‘The ghost of kyiv’, as it was nicknamed, is nothing more than an urban myth that got out of proportion, because according to the Air Force of that country, the ghost is nothing more than a metaphor for the spirit that inhabits in the pilots.
The aforementioned institution even published on its Twitter account that: “The Phantom of kyiv is alive, it embodies the collective spirit of highly skilled pilots of the Tactical Aviation Brigade who are successfully defending kyiv and the region”.
(Read also: Ukraine and Russia: what the prolongation of the war could cost).
(Don’t see from the app? See the image here).
How was the legend born?
The story began on February 25 when the former president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko published a tweet, in which appeared a photograph of a pilot nicknamed ‘The ghost of kyiv’ for having shot down six Russian planes.
“With such powerful defenders, Ukraine will definitely win!” the former president wrote.
After some investigations, international media identified this soldier as Air Force Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29 years old, who, by April, was already credited with at least 40 downed enemy planes.
На фото – p_lot M_G-29. Той самий «Привид Києва».
Він викликає жах у ворогів та гордість в українців 🇺🇦
На його рахунку 6 перемог над російськими p_lotami!
З такими потужними захисниками Україна точно переможе! pic.twitter.com/GJLpcJ31Si
— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) February 25, 2022
The details about him were so detailed that many spread the exploits of the pilot and even claimed that some Russians were afraid of him.
In addition, his plane, a Mikoyan MiG-29 that belonged to the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Air Force and operated in kyiv, became famous and convinced some media of the false story.
(Also read: Putin would be operated on for a cancerous tumor).
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. pic.twitter.com/lngfaMN01I
— Ukraine / Україна (@Ukraine) February 27, 2022
On March 24, when the Ukrainian Defense Twitter account shared that Tarabalka had died in combat during a confrontation on March 13the news that the ‘Ghost of kyiv’ had been discharged went viral.
🕯13 березня 2022 рок ід час повііряого бою з переважаючжимими силами 🇷🇺 загарбниів «ішов н небо» майор сVES
⁰🎖за захист повітряного простоses, добесть і ідваг майору степану тарабаціаці цірисвоєно звання «герой країни» pic.twitter.com/otjqT32ZP4
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) March 25, 2022
Seeing the great impact of this in the world, the Ukrainian Air Force decided that it should tell the truth about this pilot, stating that said ghost was nothing more than a “superhero legend whose character was created by the Ukrainians”.
“We ask the Ukrainian community not to neglect the basic rules of information. We ask you to check the sources of information before disseminating it,” the institution said in a statement.
(Read also: Ukraine: Heavy Weapons Shipment Sets New Phase in War).
According to statements made by Mijaíl Zhirohov to the ‘BBC’, this tactic was done in order to create a “morale-boosting propaganda.”
“It is essential to have this propaganda, because our armed forces are smaller and many think that we cannot be equal to them (the Russians). We need this in times of war,” said Zhirohov, a Ukrainian military historian.
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