The Ghost Of Kyiv Is Made Up, Ukraine Military Confirms
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The Ukrainian military has confirmed viral speculation about a lone fighter pilot dubbed 'the Ghost of Kyiv' is not true.
Rumours about the pilot were denounced this week after a number of media outlets identified him as Major Stepan Tarabalka, a pilot who had died last month in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Internet users began praising the 'Ghost' after the Ukrainian government tweeted a video showing an artist’s impression of him, claiming he shot down six Russian aircraft on the first day of the invasion.
The post read: "People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. And rightly so — this UAF [Ukrainian Air Force] ace dominates the skies over our capital and country, and has already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft."
Now, however, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat has confirmed the 'Ghost' is not one man. There is believed to be a specific Ukrainian pilot who inspired the legend, but the term has since become an all-encompassing one referring to all pilots operating in the Kyiv region.
Speaking to The Times, he explained: "The Ghost of Kyiv is alive and embodies a collective image of the highly qualified pilots of the tactical aviation brigade successfully defending Kyiv and the surrounding region.”
The information about the death of the The Ghost of #Kyiv is incorrect. 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.— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) May 1, 2022
Ignat also confirmed Maj. Tarabalka had passed away, saying he 'died heroically on March 13th, being awarded with the Gold Star of the Hero', Ukraine’s top medal for bravery in combat.
He added: "Stepan was a brave and talented pilot, sorely missed by his family and fellow soldiers.”
Tarabalka was born in the small village of Korolivka, western Ukraine and graduated from Kharkiv National University of the Air Force. Local reports indicate he died in an air battle with the Russians, and he is survived by his wife Olenia and their eight-year-old son, Yarik.
🕯 On March 13, 2022, during an air battle with the overwhelming forces 🇷🇺 of the invaders, Major Stepan Tarabalka "went to heaven."— Nick Matavka (@nmatavka) April 29, 2022
🎖 Major Stepan Tarabalka was awarded the title "Hero of Ukraine" (posthumously) for the protection of airspace, valour and courage. https://t.co/e3OI7kGIlH
The pilot's parents, Natalia and Ivan, recalled how their son used to watch the jets flying at the nearby military airfield in western Ukraine when he was a child, as well as racing to watch when paratroopers fell from the sky during exercise.
"He would run in their direction to try to see where they landed," Natalia told NPR, adding: "Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, about flying higher than the clouds."
Ukraine has claimed to have destroyed 189 Russian aircraft, 155 helicopters and 229 drones since the war broke out on February 24, though the figures have not been verified.
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