Footage of a mysterious Ukrainian fighter pilot has been going viral on social media after Russia began invading Ukraine on Thursday 24 February 2022. Credited with shooting down ten Russian jets on the first day of the invasion, the pilot is said to have flown a Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft on his way to becoming an ace—a pilot who scores five or more kills.
Serving as a crucial morale booster for the Ukrainian forces and citizens alike in the face of war, the unverified story surrounding the pilot has quickly grown in popularity on social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook. But who really is the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’?
Many military analysts have already said that the pilot would likely turn out to be an urban legend, yet many netizens have tried presenting proof that he exists. One recurring argument comes in the form of a tweet posted by an account that cites itself as Ukraine’s ‘official’ Twitter page on 27 February, which reads: “People call him the Ghost of Kyiv. And rightly so—this UAF ace dominates the skies over our capital and country, and has already become a nightmare for invading Russian aircraft.”
The post is accompanied by the very same video which has been making rounds on social media platforms. While many would expect an official government account to only post verified news, it could be argued that the country’s cause could still benefit from the ‘news’ surrounding the rumoured pilot. The Ghost of Kyiv is a crucial morale booster, remember?
Let’s not be too quick to write off the whole myth as fact-checking website Snopes stated that the pilot and their aircraft could in fact still be real, however, the video showing a brutal fight in which a Ukrainian jet shoots down a Russian aircraft is most definitely fake—with the footage said to be from the 2008 video game Digital Combat Simulator (DCS).
Though the now-viral video does not feature genuine footage, the general of the Ukrainian Armed Forces claimed that they had truly downed several Russian aircraft sky high. Reporting on the matter, CNN wrote, “The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has claimed five Russian aircraft and a helicopter were shot down early Thursday, as Russian forces attacked Ukraine. The Russian military has denied the claims, state news agency TASS reported on Thursday.”