Who Is The 'Ghost Of Kyiv', The 'Hero' Boosting Ukraine's Morale Amid Crisis?

The 'Ghost of Kyiv' is being hailed as a Ukrainian hero that has shot down up to 14 Russian planes since Moscow invaded the nation. But who is he, really?

Ghost of Kyiv

A Ukrainian fighter pilot is being hailed as the "Ghost of Kyiv" for shooting down up to 14 Russian planes. A video shared by the country's official Twitter account mentions the Ghost had shot down six Russian planes within first 30 hours of the Russian invasion.  

The video mentioned that the pilot is likely the country's first "ace" since World War 2 - an "ace" is a fighter pilot who has shot down at least five enemy aircraft.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine further called the pilot "Air Avenger" - a likely reference to Marvel Cinematic Universe's superheroes who have long protected the Earth from alien invasions. 

The ministry's tweet read, "Dozens of experienced military pilots from the captain to the general, who had previously been discharged from the reserve, are returning to the Air Force of the Armed Forces. Who knows, maybe one of them is the air avenger on the MiG-29, which is so often seen by Kyivites! Everything will be Ukraine!"

However, these claims are not entirely accurate, according to experts and fact-checkers, who have reported that at least some parts of the Ghost of Kyiv's story are false and are rather part of the Ukrainians' attempt to keep the morale of their people up and present icons for inspiration to defend their country. 

Fact-checking website Snopes has reported that while there might be such a pilot, at least some of the footage that is being attributed to the Ghost of Kyiv is false.  

Investigating a video on Twitter with over 7,50,000 views, Snopes reported, "This is not a genuine video of the Ghost of Kyiv. This video was created with Digital Combat Simulator, a simulation game that was first released in 2008."

Jared Keller, Executive Editor of the US-based Task & Purpose - a news website focused on military and security affairs, traced the Ghost of Kyiv to three tweets first shared on 24 February.

Keller highlighted that every conflict develops its heroes and cited examples of Jean Lafitte in the War of 1812 and Mr Rogers in Vietnam War. The Ukraine conflict is not any different.

"The Ghost of Kyiv may be a specter of our imagination, conjured into being from three disjointed tweets, but that doesn’t make what he represents to the people of Ukraine any less real: defiant resistance in the face of certain doom," Keller added.

The Ghost of Kyiv is not the first story from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that has turned out to be incorrect. The widely-shared story of defiant Ukrainian soldiers dying rather than surrendering after telling the Russian military to "f**k yourself" has also turned out to be incorrect.

It has now been reported that the soldiers are actually alive, according to reports by CNN and other outlets that quoted the Ukrainian Navy.  

Earlier, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky had praised the fallen soldiers as heroes. "All border guards died heroically but did not give up. They will be awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously," Zelensky was quoted as saying by CNN and other outlets.

However, these instances of incorrect information are believed to be without nefarious intentions. 

"Low-tech misinformation is often conveyed by well-meaning people trying to make sense of a confounding situation to feel less helpless," Rachel Moran, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public, was quoted as saying in Axios.