The Ghost of Kyiv: who is hero Ukrainian MiG 29 pilot who shot down Russian planes and what is an ‘ace pilot’?


Though popular and heavily discussed on social media, it seems likely that the Ghost is just an urban legend

The Ghost of Kyiv is an anonymous fighter pilot said to be active in defending Ukraine from the Russian invasion.

Though popular and heavily discussed on social media, it seems likely that the Ghost is just an urban legend – an amalgamation of different stories and individuals, the story spreading as a morale boost. If the Ghost is a real person, they would be the first ‘ace pilot’ of the 21st century.

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Here is everything you need to know about the Ghost of Kyiv.

Who is the Ghost of Kyiv?

The Ghost of Kyiv is an anonymous fighter pilot who is suggested to have shot down six Russian planes on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine. This is, more likely than not, not actually true – rather, it’s likely that the Ghost is just an urban legend, with several different attacks attributed to one person. (It’s worth noting that, if true, the Ghost would be the first pilot of the 21st century to shoot down more than five enemy combatants in a day.)

Fake footage of the Ghost, created in a video game simulator, went viral – though uploaded and acknowledged as a tribute rather than real footage, many shared it believing it to be real.

What has the Ukrainian government said about the Ghost?

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense have suggested that, if confirmed, the pilot may be an experienced pilot from the military reserves.

Former president Petro Poroshenko has tweeted an image of a pilot (masked and unidentifiable), with a caption reading “In the image we have the MiG-29 pilot known as ‘The Ghost of Kyiv’. He terrorizes enemies and makes Ukrainian people proud. He’s got six wins over Russian pilots! With such powerful defenders, Ukraine will definitely win!”

How many Russian plans has the Ghost shot down?

It’s being suggested that the Ghost of Kyiv has shot down six Russian planes – accounting for all but one of the seven Russian planes reported to have been shot down in the first day of the invasion.

What is a MiG 29 plane?

The Mikoyan MiG-29 is a short-range fighter plane. It was first designed in the 1970s, and remained in production through 2013.

In 2014, Ukraine had around 80 MiG 29 plans – the majority of them, however, were based in Crimea, and were seized by Russia when the territory was annexed. Ukraine now has a significantly diminished airforce.

What is an ‘ace pilot’?

It is relatively unusual to become an ‘ace in a day’ specifically (a fighter pilot who shoots down five or more enemy combatants in a single day). If the record attributed to the Ghost of Kyiv is to be believed, that would make the anonymous pilot the first person to achieve ‘ace in a day’ status in the 21st century.

Previously, the most recently recognized ‘ace in a day’ was US pilot Oscar Perdomo, who shot down five Japanese aircraft in the final days of World War Two. In 1965, pilot Muhammad Mahmood Alam claimed to have shot down five aircraft in a day (and four in a minute – a world record). However, this has been heavily contested over the years, and it’s generally understood now to be untrue.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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