- Reports said the so-called Kyiv ghost died in battle last month.
- The pilot allegedly shot down up to 40 Russian planes during the war.
- Although many have speculated that he was a legend, his identity has been revealed to be Major Stepan Tarabalca.
Local sources said that a famous Ukrainian pilot nicknamed the “Ghost of Kyiv” was killed in a battle London times.
The Ghost of Kyiv first appeared when the Ukrainian government tweeted a video in which it credited the then-unnamed pilot for shooting down six Russian planes on the first day of the war. He was said to have shot down as many as 40 Russian planes.
His identity has now been revealed as Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, was killed on March 13 when “overwhelming” Russian forces shot down the MiG-29 he was flying, the newspaper said.
Ukrainian sources told the newspaper that his helmet and goggles are expected to be auctioned in London.
“People call it the Kyiv Ghost. And rightfully so – this UAF is dominating the skies of our capital and our country, and it has already become a nightmare for invading Russian planes,” the tweet said.
—Ukraine / Україна (Ukraine) February 27 2022
Days before his death, the Ukrainian General Staff published a photo of the fighter pilot in the cockpit of his MiG-29 with his face hidden, with the caption: “Hello occupier, I’m coming for your soul!”
Since his identity was kept secret, many have speculated that the Ghost of Kyiv was a legend meant to raise Ukrainian morale. However, the government continued to insist that it was genuine.
Tarabalka was born in the small village of Korolevka to a working-class family and graduated from Kharkiv National Air Force University, The Times reported.
He left behind his wife Olena and their eight-year-old son Yarik.
His parents, Ivan and Natalia, gave an interview to NPR after their son’s death and detailed his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.
His mother, Natalia, said: “He always watched the paratroopers in their air training. And he ran in their direction to try to see where they landed. From early childhood, he always dreamed of the sky, of flying higher than the clouds.” NPR.
His father told NPR that they had not been told the details of their son’s recent flight, only that he had not returned after completing the assignment.
His parents confirmed that the fighter pilot was posthumously awarded the Gold Star, Ukraine’s highest order for bravery in combat, with the title Hero of Ukraine.
“Of course, he really did get and deserve this medal, this honor, when he was with us,” Evan told NPR. “We are proud of him. But we hope he gets this honor after the war. We wish he was still alive.”