The ‘Ghost of Kiev’ or ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ was one of the most oft-repeated stories in the early part of Russia’s war with Ukraine. Western media outlets, television anchors, politicians, and Ukraine flag-in-bio-bros unsparingly littered social media outlets with tales of a secret, super-pilot who was knocking dozens of Russian jets out of the sky.
At the time, anti-war skeptics suspected the tales were pure propaganda or “disinformation”, only to be ruthlessly dismissed as “Putinistas” or similar in the early days of the conflict.
He’s obviously the Ghost of Kiev!! https://t.co/wwFHkz9rDg
— R.J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) February 28, 2022
Now, as claims that the ‘Ghost of Kiev’ is dead, Ukraine’s own government as well as military social media accounts and historians are accepting that he never really existed.
“The ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend, whose figure was created by Ukrainians!” the nation’s military’s Telegram account announced this week.
“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 Air Force added on Twitter.
Ukrainian military historian Mikhail Zhirohov told the BBC the Ghost of Kiev story was simply “propaganda for raising morale”.
“It’s essential to have this propaganda, because our armed forces are smaller, and many think we can’t be equal to them [the Russians]. We need this in wartime,” he admitted.
The news follows the announcement of the death of Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29.
Tarabalkan was killed in combat on 13 March and honoured with a Hero of Ukraine medal posthumously. Some maintain that Tarabalka was the actual Ghost of Kiev, and that the new claims that he never existed are in fact a way to keep morale up in the face of one a significant loss. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian Air Force now denying that anyone downed up to 40 Russian planes would certainly be a bizarre and disrespectful move if indeed Tarabalka came anywhere close to the legends associated with him.