Ukrainian Air Force Major Stepan Tarabalka, who died on March 13 during aerial combat, is not the legendary “Ghost of Kyiv” and did not shoot down 40 aircraft by himself, clarified Ukraine’s Air Force Command via Telegram messenger on April 30.
On Apr. 29, the British newspaper The Times, citing “Ukrainian sources”, reported that the “Ghost of Kyiv”, the nickname for an ace pilot who allegedly shot down more than 40 Russian aircraft, had died in battle. The Times identified this pilot as 29-year-old Major Tarabalka.
Tarabakla was confirmed killed in action by the Air Force on March 13, and was awarded the title of “Hero of Ukraine” and the Order of the Gold Star posthumously. However, the military says, he was not the Ghost of Kyiv.
“The Ghost of Kyiv is a legendary superhero whose myth was created by Ukrainians! It is rather a composite image of the pilots of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Air Force of Ukraine, protecting the skies of the capital, who suddenly appear where they are not expected!” Air Force Command explained.
The Air Force also denied various claims that have popped up in various news and social media outlets in recent weeks, including that Ukrainian pilots had been training to use U.S. F-16 fighter jets. However, Ukrainian pilots “are not yet studying abroad on the F-16, no matter how much we all want it,” the military said.
The Air Force Command urged the Ukrainians “not to indulge wishful thinking” and to check their sources before spreading news.
On the fourth day of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine reported that a Ukrainian pilot, dubbed the “Ghost of Kyiv”, had already shot down 10 enemy aircraft. The fact that the “Ghost of Kyiv” is a fiction and is rather a group of pilots was also confirmed by Oleksiy Arestovych, a presidential advisor, in an interview with NV.