The Ukrainian Air Force has urged people not to spread the “Ghost of Kyiv” myth as the country seeks to combat disinformation and propaganda amid war with Russia. News outlets had previously identified Maj. Stepan Tarabalka, a real Ukrainian pilot, as the mythic figure. Photo courtesy Ukrainian Air Force/Facebook
May 1 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian Air Force has urged people not to spread the "Ghost of Kyiv" myth as the country seeks to combat disinformation and propaganda amid war with Russia.
The saga started when Ukrainian media reported that an unknown fighter jet pilot had shot down six Russian planes in the first 30 hours of the invasion, which was shared by the government's official Twitter account three days later and spread with the Ghost of Kyiv nickname.
The Ghost of Kyiv became a rallying symbol for Ukrainians fighting against the Russian occupation as memes spread online. News organizations including The Times of London sought to name the heroic figure, who was identified by the outlet Friday as Maj. Stepan Tarabalka.
Tarabalka, a real pilot, was killed in an air battle on March 13 and later awarded the title "Hero of Ukraine" by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement in the weeks after his death. He was 29.
"Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT 'Ghost of Kyiv' and he did NOT shoot down 40 planes," the Ukrainian Air Force said in its statement Saturday.
"The ghost of Kyiv is a superhero-legend, whose figure was created by Ukrainians! It is rather a collective image of the pilots of the 40th Brigade of Tactical Aviation of the Air Force, which protects the sky of the capital."
The Ukrainian Air Force also dispelled rumors that military pilots had started training on piloting F-16 fighter jets abroad and that U.S. bombers had flown over Ukraine.
"Keep calm and use official sources of information," the Ukrainian Air Force said. "Glory to Ukraine!"