‘Ghost of Kyiv’ who shot down more than 40 Russian aircraft dies in battle

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A brave fighter pilot who is rumoured to have shot down over 40 Russian planes has lost his life defending Ukraine, according to local reports.

Major Stepan Tarabalka, dubbed the Ghost of Kyiv, lost his life when the MiG-29 he was flying was shot down while he battled an "overwhelming" amount of enemy forces, mayor of Kolomyia Bogdan Stanislavsky announced.

The 29-year-old became a hit cult figure at the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and was understood to have been patrolling the skies above the Ukrainian capital, Mirror reports.

The father-of-one is said to have destroyed six Russian aircraft on the first day the invasion began and racked up a whopping total of over 40 by the time he died.

Major Tarabalka rose to fame after the Ukrainian Government shared a video on Twitter, which showed an artist's impression of the fearsome pilot.

The tweet read: "People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. And rightly so — this UAF (Ukrainian Air Force) ace dominates the skies over our capital and country, and has already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft."

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Officials within the Ukrainian Government have insisted the that he was in fact real, despite claims conspiracy theories that he was a myth to boost morale in the country.

Some videos circulated online claiming to show the Ghost of Kyiv battling enemy forces but these were exposed as being from a video game.

Mayor Stanislavsky said: "Stepan fought for the will and independence of our state. He guarded the sky from enemies.

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"Eternal memory and honour to our defender!"

Major Tarabalka was raised in a working-class family and was born in the village of Korolivka in western Ukraine, according to The Times.

He leaves behind his wife Olenia and their eight-year-old son, Yarik.

Major Tarabalka has posthumously been awarded Ukraine's top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, with the title Hero of Ukraine.

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His mother described to NPR about how he used to watch MiG jets flying over their house when he was a boy, which made him determined to become a fighter pilot.

She told the publication via a translator: "He would always watch the paratroopers in their air exercises.

"And he would run in their direction to try to see where they landed.

"Since early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, about flying higher than the clouds."

She added that he would fly over his home village and tilt his wings in a salute after finishing flight school.

  • Russia Ukraine war
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • Military

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