Dozens of media outlets ran articles identifying Major Stepan Tarabalka as a legendary pilot who died heroically after downing some 40 Russian fighter jets. The ace fighter pilot, who died in March and was buried in the town of Korolivka, was called the “Ghost of Kyiv.”
However, the Ukrainian military has denied the claims. While the urban legend of the Ghost of Kyiv spread over social media early on, the footage that ran viral was later revealed to be from a flight simulator.
Ukraine’s Air Force Command killed the rumor about the Ghost of Kyiv, saying that “he’s a superhero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians.” The Air Force also confirmed that Tarabalka was not the Ghost of Kyiv and had not shot down 40 planes. Instead, they said 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.”
Still, he was posthumously awarded Ukraine’s top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title “Hero of Ukraine.”
The legend spread when the Ukrainian government publicly credited a 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 stated, adding that he had “already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft.”
In a widely-shared video, the Ghost was “seen” chasing down a Russian plane and then shooting it out of the sky. A voice said in Ukrainian, “There’s a plane. There’s another one. It’s about to crash.”
However, the video was later found to be a sequence from a video game, “Digital Combat Simulator World.” (Related: DEBUNKED: Corporate media’s top trending Ukraine stories turn out to be complete fakes.)
“This footage is from DCS, but is nevertheless made out of respect for the ‘Ghost of Kyiv,’” the person who uploaded the video on YouTube on February 24 said. “If he is real, may God be with him; if he is fake, I pray for more like him.”
A spokesman for the game confirmed that the footage is one of theirs.
More photos of the Ghost found to be fake
A photo of a helmeted pilot in a cockpit identified as the Ghost was also found on Twitter. Former President Petro Poroshenko, who posted the photo, captioned it: “With such strong defenders, Ukraine will definitely win!”
However, the photo Poroshenko posted was shown by the Defense Ministry almost three years ago, and it was of a pilot doing a flight test with a new helmet. (Related: Dutch journalist in Ukraine says Western media regularly lie about what is happening on the ground.)
Other photos that made the rounds on the internet were clearly not genuine, either. A different image was shown through noise analysis to be altered using an image-processing program.
A reverse-image search also confirmed suspicions that the photos are fake. Another version of the same photo appeared online, but with stark differences, most notably, a symbol of the Royal Canadian Air Force appearing in the background.
The existence of a Ukrainian fighter pilot who shot down six Russian planes cannot be confirmed, but what is clear is that many of the videos and photos circulating online are fake.
Follow WWIII.news for more news related to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Watch the video below to know more about the so-called “Ghost of Kyiv.”
This video is from the alltheworldsastage channel on Brighteon.com.
More related stories:
Latest development on Russia’s attack on Ukraine and reports from Kyiv: Tanks roll in from Belarus, airports and sea ports seized by Russian troops, military targets obliterated with precision missile strikes.