The ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ had set the social media abuzz and effectively became a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against a much larger and superior Russian military. However, that has now come to an end as the ghost is finally reported dead.
The “Ghost of Kyiv” was apparently a Ukrainian fighter pilot who shot down Russian jets on the first day of the conflict, on February 24, 2022. After videos of an aircraft soaring through the sky above Ukraine surfaced on social media, the rumors began to swirl.
For many netizens who have been tracking the developments of the war since the outset, the mystery pilot became a ‘hero’ and their source of optimism by shooting some 40 enemy aircraft.
Last week, some news sites even identified the mythical mystery hero fighter pilot as a 29-year-old father. However, the next reportage contained the news that the hero was killed in combat.
Now, in what could be a startling revelation for the followers of the ‘Ghost of Kyiv,’ the Ukrainian officials have accepted that the hero was a mythical character and that no such person ever existed.
“The ghost of Kyiv is a superhero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!” Ukraine’s Air Force Command wrote on Facebook.
The existence of the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ goes back to the start of the invasion when a MiG-29 fighter was supposedly seen soaring through the skies above many locations in Ukraine, visuals of which were posted on social media.
Later, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said at least six Russian planes and two helicopters had been destroyed on the first day of action and an urban legend was created!
The Times recently carried a story that said Major Stepan Tarabalka was the alleged Ukrainian war hero. However, Ukraine later refuted the claims; while Tarabalka was a decorated military hero, he was not the “Ghost” because such a person never existed.
RIP Major Stepan Tarabalka (Ghost of Kiev), 29. He shot down 40 Russian planes. He was declared Hero of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/ScGM7B7gkk
— Dude 🇺🇦 (@Y0uD0ntMatter) April 29, 2022
“Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT ‘Ghost of Kyiv,’ and he did NOT shoot down 40 planes,” said the country’s Air Force Command. Further, the Air Force emphasized that the moniker ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ belonged collectively to all the pilots of the Ukrainian Air Force that are alive and carrying out their duties in combat.
The official Twitter handle of the Ukrainian Air Force wrote: “The information about the death of The Ghost of #Kyiv is incorrect. The #GhostOfKyiv is alive, and it embodies the collective spirit of the highly qualified pilots of the Tactical Aviation Brigade who are successfully defending #Kyiv and the region”.
While some netizens regretted falling for misinformation propagated by Ukraine, some others interpreted a different meaning. A Twitter user by the name @Ole2Johnson explained it as a meaning lost in translation. They wrote: “It’s not a ghost, it’s a SPIRIT (дух) of Ukraine. It’s another word lost in translation.”
It's not a ghost, it's a SPIRIT (дух) of Ukraine. It's another word lost in translation.
Ukranian translations of дух, noun
spirit –біс, рішучість, тенденція, відвага, спирит, дух
mind — глузд, думка, здання, ум, дух, інтелект
soul –дух, суть, душа
— Olena Johnson too (@Ole2Johnson) March 10, 2022
On its part, the Ukrainian government had already played a vital role in the creation and perpetuation of the legend of a single brave and especially on-target fighter pilot. This is oddly similar to the mythical Chinese soldier under Mao Zedong, ‘Lei Feng’ who was projected as the ideal soldier and was the center of many propaganda campaigns at the time.
Despite this, many individuals were eager to commemorate the enigmatic alleged pilot and have continued to pay tributes to the man that they took for the ghost that became their hero.
While the Ukrainians have mourned the loss of their imaginary hero online, the Russians are apparently geared up to celebrate their Victory Day next week.
Russia Flexes Muscles
As the day of commemoration of the Russian Victory Day draws close, thousands of military personnel were seen practicing with ballistic missile launchers and tanks in preparation for the Victory Day parade in Russia.
There have been rumors that Vladimir Putin could declare war on the West to mark the day, without evidence to suggest the same.
This year, the Victory Day parade has received a lot of attention, with regular rehearsals, including massive military vehicles being paraded through the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg in an intended show of might. The parade has traditionally been used as an occasion to display military might and unveil new weapon systems.
Military convoys have been shown on state television, and large numbers of soldiers marched into Palace Square last week in what appeared to be a message to the adversaries sitting in the West.
Dozens of tanks and other military hardware rolling through Moscow at midnight. Victory Day parade rehearsals. pic.twitter.com/blFZp4X6L5
— Marc Bennetts (@marcbennetts1) April 21, 2022
According to the Moscow Times, Russia’s Defense Ministry produced an interactive map of the parade, which showed 33 marching columns of Russian troops, cadets, and representatives of security services.
Some of the vehicles used in the Rehearsals for the Victory Day Parade on May 9th 2022 pic.twitter.com/8bmnSSjKV9
— josef_aleksandr (@AleksandrJosef) April 30, 2022
T-14 tanks, S-400 air defense systems, rocket launchers, and infantry fighting vehicles were among the weapons on exhibit, while about 77 aircraft were displayed by the air division, including Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, Su-57 stealth fighters, and attack and transport helicopters.
More rehearsals have been planned for the 4th and 7th of this month. The celebration this year will not have a foreign guest due to the global condemnation faced by Russia.
Earlier, some reports had suggested that Russia was eager to use the day to declare success in the “special military operation” launched in February. Moscow has since dismissed the speculations.
Having said that, this year’s Victory Parade will be closely watched by the world, especially the combatants across the border and its partners in the West.