‘Ghost of Kyiv fighter pilot Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, who shot down more than 40 Russian planes, was killed in battle last month, Ukrainian media reported. His exploits of shooting down some 40 Russian planes since February 24, when Russia renewed its invasion of Ukraine, were believed to be an urban legend and were thought by Ukrainian authorities to be touted by Ukrainian authorities as a morale boost for Ukrainian forces.
The death of the highly celebrated enigmatic pilot was reported by The Times of London, which for the first time also publicly identified Major Stepan Tarabalka, a 29-year-old father, as the war hero.
Tarabalka was credited with shooting down up to 40 Russian planes until he himself was shot down on March 13 while fighting “overwhelming” numbers of enemy forces, the UK newspaper said.
Tarabalka was posthumously awarded Ukraine’s highest medal for his bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title of Hero of Ukraine, according to his family.
His helmet and goggles, all that was seen of him when Ukrainian officials promoted his heroism, will now be auctioned off in London, sources told the UK Times as they confirmed Tarabalka’s identity.
On the first day of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Twitter was awash with clips purportedly showing a Ukrainian plane soaring through the skies over several cities and shooting down six Kremlin planes in dogfights.
One of the clips, which garnered nearly 5 million views, was completely debunked as a clip from the 2008 Digital Combat Simulator video game, with a Reuters Fact Check concluding: “A vertical video shared online does not show a Ukrainian fighter jet shooting down a Russian plane”. , but it comes from the DCS video game.’
A couple of days later, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry posted a video on the government’s Twitter account extolling the skill and bravery of the ‘Ghost of Kyiv, but used the same debunked footage.
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