Authorities in Ukraine have admitted that the “Ghost of Kyiv”, a hero who is believed to have shot down a vast number of Russian military aircraft, is a myth.
“The Ghost of Kyiv is a super-hero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!” Ukraine’s air force said in a statement on Facebook.
In a separate post on Twitter, the air force denied that the character referred to any particular soldier or hero.
“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,” the post said.
The statement from the air force came after reports emerged from several media outlets that wrongly identified Major Stepan Tarabalka, a real pilot who died in air combat on1 3 March as the “Ghost of Kyiv”.
The pilot was subsequently awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine, the country’s air force said last month.
The air force said in its Twitter post on Saturday that the information about the death of the “The Ghost of #Kyiv is incorrect”.
The myth surrounding the character emerged on social media just a day after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
The legend related to an anonymous fighter pilot who single-handedly took down multiple Russian planes.
On 25 February Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko also tweeted a photo that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense had shared three years earlier, falsely claiming it showed the Ghost of Kyiv who had taken down six Russian pilots.
On 12 March, the Ukrainian air force shared a photo purporting to show the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ which showed a fighter pilot sitting in an MiG-2 – also known as Fulcrum fighter jet – with the caption: “Hello, occupier, I’m flying for your soul!”
Earlier reports also falsely claimed to show footage of the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ shooting down planes but were revealed to be relying on a clip from the simulation game Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) World.