Ukraine’s fighter pilots are vastly outnumbered by the Russians, and have become legendary – thanks in part to the story of an alleged flying ace called the “Ghost of Kyiv”.
This hero is said to have downed as many as 40 enemy planes – an incredible feat in an arena where Russia controls the skies.
But now the Ukraine Air Force Command has warned on Facebook that the “Ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!”.
“We ask the Ukrainian community not to neglect the basic rules of information hygiene,” the message said, urging people to “check the sources of information, before spreading it”.
Earlier reports had named the ace as Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29. The authorities confirmed that he was killed in combat on 13 March and honoured with a Hero of Ukraine medal posthumously.
Now, the air force stresses that “Tarabalka is not ‘Ghost of Kiev’, and he did not hit 40 planes”.
It describes the “Ghost of Kyiv” as “a collective image of pilots of the Air Force’s 40th tactical aviation brigade, who defend the sky over the capital”, rather than a single man’s combat record.
For weeks, Ukrainians did not have a name to go with the “Ghost of Kyiv” – but that did not stop the story going viral on social media.
And the defence ministry tweeted a video celebrating Tarabalka’s heroism.