As you may have heard, Russian military forces invaded Ukraine yesterday and are now fighting outside the capital, Kyiv. The fighting has reportedly claimed the lives of 137 Ukrainians and injured hundreds more so far.
But amid the tragedy of the biggest armed invasion of a European nation since World War II, a glimmer of hope appears. The so-called “Ghost of Kyiv”, a Ukrainian fighter pilot who has since become the world’s first “ace” since the Great War.
According to Ukrainian blogger Sergey Naumovich (via Channel 5 News), the Ghost of Kyiv is a Ukrainian Mig-29 pilot “who in 30 hours won six aerial victories over Russian forces”, shooting down two Su-35s, one Su- 27, a Russian Mig-29 and two Su-25s. The images published below the text show a Ukrainian Mig-29 shooting down a Russian fighter jet with an infrared homing missile.
The story of the Ghost of Kiev has since been picked up by mainstream media and made the rounds on social networksoften with colored pictures showing his support for the Ghost of Kiev. However, some wonder if the ghost of Kiev really exists.
A post on the Ace Combat subreddit alleges that the Phantom of Kiev may have been made by a War Thunder content creator. TheScottishKoala seems to be the first person to publish on the Ghost of Kiev yesterday around noon (Update: images used in this tweet are from Digital Combat Simulator, according to Snopes), nearly 24 hours before the story was even picked up by Ukrainian news sources. This seems to have started a social media movement under the hashtag #ghostofkyivwith several artists representing the phantom plane and tail art.
However, ScottishKoala later admitted that he may have “I jumped on it too quickly without enough evidence“, explaining that he did not expect the Phantom of Kiev to explode as big as it did. He sent a request for concrete information on social networks, but has not yet received anything confirming the existence of the Ukrainian fighter.
Several hours after ScottishKoala’s initial post, Aviation Weekly defense editor Steve Trimble told Twitter to “just ignore” the reports of a Ukrainian fighter ace and even expressed doubts about the makes such a feat even possible on the modern battlefield. Trimble later deleted this tweet, in writing“Okay, dreamers win this one. I’ll delete and let you think what you will of the supposed prowess of a certain Ukrainian Mig-29 pilot.
Trimble’s doubt and ScottishKoala’s lack of evidence didn’t stop the Ghost of Kyiv from being widely publicized both on social media and in the media. As several answers in the Ace Combat Reddit thread make clear, people want to believe in the Phantom of Kiev. And maybe we should; Ukraine could certainly use a hero in its darkest hour.
They could very well be defending the skies of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Facebook that the Ghost could be any number of “tens of experienced pilots” currently defending their country.
“Who knows, maybe one of them and is that air avenger on Mig-29 that is seen so often by kiyani!”
If you would like to donate directly to Ukrainians displaced by the conflict, consider donating to the International Red Cross through these links.
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