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The Ukrainian military officially ended speculation about the “Ghost of Kyiv,” admitting that the legendary pilot is actually a myth.
“Ghost of Kiev is a superhero-legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!” the Ukrainian Air Force said in a Facebook post Saturday.
The admission comes after it was reported Friday that 29-year-old Major Stepan Tarabalka, who some had credited with being the Ghost of Kyiv, was shot down and killed in battle last month.
Stories of the legendary pilot grew in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with some crediting the mythical pilot with shooting down at least 40 Russian fighter jets as Ukrainian forces defended the capital city of Kyiv.
Though Ukrainian Air Force acknowledged that Tarabalka was not the Ghost of Kyiv, they did credit him for serving “heroically” prior to his death.
“Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT ‘Ghost of Kiev’ and he did NOT hit 40 planes,” the post said. “On March 13, 2022, Major Stepan Tarabalka was heroically killed in an air battle with the dominant forces of the Russian occupiers.”
Despite the admission that the Ghost of Kyiv was not a real pilot, the Ukrainian Air Force celebrated the legend Saturday, saying the story represents the resilience of the Ukrainian people.
“The information about the death of the The Ghost of Kyiv is incorrect,” the Ukrainian Air Force said 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.”