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The legendary ‘Ghost of Kyiv‘ fighter pilot who shot down more than 40 Russian aircraft died in battle last month, it has been revealed.

Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, a father of one, was flying a MiG-29 when it was shot down on March 13 battling ‘overwhelming’ enemy forces.

He quickly gained worldwide fame after shooting down six Russian aircraft on the first day of the invasion, as the Ukrainian government tweeted a video of the claims.

Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, a father of one, was flying a MiG-29 when it was shot down on March 13 battling 'overwhelming' enemy forces

Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, a father of one, was flying a MiG-29 when it was shot down on March 13 battling 'overwhelming' enemy forces

Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, a father of one, was flying a MiG-29 when it was shot down on March 13 battling ‘overwhelming’ enemy forces

He quickly gained worldwide fame after shooting down six Russian aircraft on the first day of the invasion, as the Ukrainian government tweeted a video of the claims

He quickly gained worldwide fame after shooting down six Russian aircraft on the first day of the invasion, as the Ukrainian government tweeted a video of the claims

He quickly gained worldwide fame after shooting down six Russian aircraft on the first day of the invasion, as the Ukrainian government tweeted a video of the claims

But speculation then grew that he was a Ukrainian myth designed to inspire bravery in the ranks of their defiant fighters.

On the first day of Vladimir Putin’s invasion Twitter was alight with clips that allegedly showed a Ukrainian jet soaring through the skies over several cities and shooting down six Kremlin planes in dogfights. 

One of the ciips, which got nearly 5million views,  was thoroughly debunked as a clip from the 2008 videogame Digital Combat Simulator, with a Reuters Fact Check concluding: ‘A vertical video shared online does not show a Ukrainian fighter jet shooting down a Russian plane, but comes from the videogame DCS.’ 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence posted a video to the government’s Twitter account extolling the skill and bravery of the ‘Ghost of Kyiv’, but it used the same debunked footage.

For most internet sleuths, the story seemed too Hollywood to be true. 

Now, sources have confirmed his identity and his death to The Times.

His helmet and goggles are now expected to go on sale at an auction in London.

After his initial success, the Ukrainian government said: ‘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.’

Speculation grew that he was a Ukrainian myth designed to inspire bravery in the ranks of their defiant fighters

Speculation grew that he was a Ukrainian myth designed to inspire bravery in the ranks of their defiant fighters

Speculation grew that he was a Ukrainian myth designed to inspire bravery in the ranks of their defiant fighters

He has been posthumously awarded the country’s top medal for bravery in combat, the Order of the Golden Star, and has been given the title Hero of Ukraine.

Two days before his death, Ukraine’s General Staff shared a photo of the legendary fighter sitting in the cockpit.

They captioned it: ‘Hello, occupier, I’m coming for your soul!’

Tarabalka was born into a working class family in the village of Korolivka in the west of Ukraine.

He attended Kharkiv National University of the Air Force and leaves behind his wife Olenia and son Yarik, eight. 

Local accounts say he is personally responsible for downing 40 Russian aircraft, and possibly more.

His mother Nahtalia said he used to watch MiG jets flying over their home and always dreamed of being a fighter pilot.

She said: ‘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.’ 

Once qualified, he would regularly fly over their village and tilt the wings of his jet as a salute to the family.

Source: DailyMail

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