ZB

'Ghost of Kyiv' hero fighter pilot a myth, Ukraine air force admits

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 May 2022, 9:12am
The "Ghost of Kyiv" has been awarded Ukraine's highest honour and has been identified as Major Stepan Tarabalka. (Photo / Twitter)
The "Ghost of Kyiv" has been awarded Ukraine's highest honour and has been identified as Major Stepan Tarabalka. (Photo / Twitter)

'Ghost of Kyiv' hero fighter pilot a myth, Ukraine air force admits

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 2 May 2022, 9:12am

The mysterious "Ghost of Kyiv", a Ukrainian fighter pilot who reportedly shot down dozens of Russian aircrafts, is a myth the Ukraine air force has finally admitted.

The supposed pilot's death was reported by media including The Times of London, who identified the "Ghost of Kyiv" as Major Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old father-of-one.

Tarabalka had been hailed a hero and is credited with taking out as many as 40 Russian aircraft.

However the Ukraine air force has now conceded the hero pilot was a myth.

"The ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend, whose character was created by Ukrainians!" Ukraine's Air Force Command wrote on Facebook overnight, killing off the rumour.

The air force confirmed that "Tarabalka is not 'Ghost of Kiev', and had not shot down 40 planes, instead claiming the ghost character was "a collective image of pilots of the Air Force's 40th tactical aviation brigade, who defend the sky over the capital".

He was reportedly shot down on March 13. The Times of London had said he was killed while battling an "overwhelming" number of enemy forces.

Tarabalka has been posthumously awarded Ukraine's top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title Hero of Ukraine.

The legend of the Ghost of Kyiv became known when the Ukrainian government had publicly credited the then-anonymous pilot with shooting down six Russian jets on the first day of the war.

"People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. And rightly so," the official tweet said, saying he had "already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft".

Ukraine's General Staff later tweeted another picture of the ace fighter pilot in the cockpit of his MiG-29 jet with his face covered, captioned, "Hello, occupier, I'm coming for your soul!"

His identity remained a mystery this entire time, seemingly even to his family, when told of their loved one's death last month.

"We know he was flying on a mission. And he completed the mission, his task. Then he didn't return. That's all the information we have," his dad, Evon Tarabalka, said in an interview with the NPR soon after the pilot's death.

According to his parents, Tarabalka's lifelong dream was to become a fighter pilot, after growing up next to a military airfield in the village of Korolivka.

"Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, about flying higher than the clouds," his mother Nahtalia told NPR through a translator.

"He would always watch the paratroopers in their air exercises. And he would run in their direction to try to see where they landed," she added.

Correction and apology - An earlier version of this story reported the death of the "Ghost of Kyiv" Major Stepan Tarabalka as fact, as reported by The Times of London. Newstalk ZB apologises for the error.