The Ghost of Kyiv is NOT dead, Ukraine says – but truth of the morale-boosting 'superhero-legend' is not so simple

AS Vladimir Putin's troops poured into Ukraine, the so-called Ghost of Kyiv became a symbol of resistance and was quickly hailed a hero amid claims the ace had downed dozens of enemy planes.

And so Ukrainians were gutted when it was claimed the brave fighter had been killed in combat after macho propaganda of the masked pilot shooting down Russian jets saw his popularity soar.

The Ghost of Kyiv had been named last week as 29-year-old Stepan Tarabalka – who died in battle on March 13.

Hewas posthumously awarded Ukraine’s top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title Hero of Ukraine.

But the Ukraine Air Force Command has now said Tarabalka was NOT the Ghost of Kyiv as the truth of the morale-boosting pilot is not so clear cut.

It warned the ace is a merely a "character" rather than an actual person.

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A Facebook post said: "Ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!".

The messaged urged people to "check the sources of information, before spreading it".

It stressed that "Tarabalka is not 'Ghost of Kiev', and he did not hit 40 planes".

The post described the flying ace as "a collective image of pilots of the Air Force's 40th tactical aviation brigade, who defend the sky over the capital" – rather just one pilot's record.

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Back in March, the Ukrainian military shared a snap showing a person wearing an oxygen mask in the cockpit of an MiG-29 fighter jet, with the caption “Hello, occupier, I’m coming for your soul!”.

And he Ukrainian government’s official account posted a 38-second clip on their social media back on February 27, writing: “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.”

Footage purported to show the MiG-29 jet soaring through the air before destroying six Kremlin planes on the first day Putin launched his war.

But one of the videos was debunked by experts as being from the 2008 videogame Digital Combat Simulator – fuelling suspicions the ace had been made up as officials tried to rally support for their resistance against the Russian invasion.

The footage starts with a cartoon mock-up of the plane, before going into the debunked footage of a destroyed Russian jet.

Text then appears on the video, which states: “Ukraine probably got its first ace since World War II. This is the anonymous pilot of the MiG-29, nicknamed the Ghost of Kyiv.

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“In the first 30 hours of the Russian invasion in February 2022 he shot down six Russian military aircraft.

“As of February 26 – 10 military planes of the occupiers. To become an ace pilot, you need to shoot down five planes. And the Ghost of Kyiv shot twice as many."

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