If Truth Is the First Casualty of War, It Died a Quick Death in Ukraine.
No one knows his name, but he is already a legend, at least on the internet. In only a few hours- according to social media, he defiantly took to the skies over Ukraine in his trusty MiG-29 and waged a one-man onslaught against the marauding Russian Air Forces.
According to Twitter and Reddit, the mystery mega-ace now called “The Ghost of Kyiv” singlehandedly shot down “six Russian aircraft” to achieve ace-in-a-day status. According to internet claims, the Ghost of Kiev chalked up six air-to-air kills with no less than two Russian Sukhoi Su-35s, a Russian Su-27 Flanker, a Russian MiG-29 and two Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft allegedly “shot down”. And he’s still fighting, at least according to the internet.
There’s only one catch: there probably is no “Ghost of Kyiv” and this internet legend is probably not true.
The legend of the “Ghost of Kyiv” is almost certainly an example of bizarre distortions and manipulations of fact or near-fact that are amplified during the chaos of war, especially a new war during the opening hours. These legends sometimes have at least some basis in fact, but as they travel through language barriers and across borders at the speed of light via social media, they become embellished, retransmitted and retweeted as “news”. There may have been Ukrainian air-to-air victories in the opening day of the war. There may have even been six total, or some other number. But the likelihood that six of these alleged aerial victories belongs to a singular, gallant “ace-in-a-day” is remote.
At the same time our new hero, the now-legendary “Ghost of Kyiv”, was allegedly dropping Russian aircraft like flies, the internet was abuzz with concern over the “Kossak of Ukraine”, the massive Antonov An-225 Mriya (NATO reporting name “Kossak”) mega-airlifter, the one surviving largest aircraft on earth.
Posts on social media claimed the lone operational An-225 Mriya had been “damaged” during a battle for Antonov Airport, also called “Hostomel” or “Gostomel” Airport. Then Tweets and posts appeared suggesting the aircraft had survived the initial Battle of Antonov Airport intact. One media report claimed the Russians had “Captured the An-225”, which could be argued initially belonged to the Russians anyway, and was, in fact, “recaptured” by the Russians from the Ukrainians… but since then more reports have surfaced suggesting the An-225 has once again been “captured” or “re-captured” (“re-recaptured”?) back by the Ukrainians. The only thing that is absolutely certain about the An-225 as of this hour, is that nothing is certain.
While all this was unfolding, the airspace over Ukraine was closed to commercial air traffic for obvious safety reasons as the conflict erupted. Flight tracking apps showed a massive, empty airspace over Ukraine with a conspicuous lack of commercial air traffic, probably to make room for the “Ghost of Kyiv” to continue dropping Russian aircraft seemingly at will.
But then reports surfaced of Air India flight AI121, a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner en route from Delhi, India to Frankfurt, Germany. According to Twitter, Air India flight AI121 simply barreled through the closed airspace, over the marauding “Ghost of Kyiv”, the Battle of Antonov Airport where the An-225 was reportedly changing hands every four hours depending on which reports you believed, and all the other chaos erupting below.
Whether passengers onboard Air India AI121 knew they were the only airliner in the world running the gauntlet of a country newly at war has not been revealed, but it would have been interesting to see passenger reactions when AI121 landed safely in Frankfurt a few hours later.
Finally, back on Feb. 18, 2022, right before all this unfolded, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, decided to don traditional Japanese Samurai regalia and post a photo of himself on Twitter to… well, we’re not exactly certain why he did it. Perhaps as a show of defiance against Russia from Ukraine, but dressed as an ancient Japanese warlord.
We know what we are fighting for. How about Russia?
— セルギー・コルスンスキー駐日ウクライナ特命全権大使 (@KorsunskySergiy) February 15, 2022
And finally, to add to the “fog of war” as the situation in Ukraine becomes more serious, numerous videos and photos have surfaced in social media (and even some supposedly “credible” news outlets) that used images from previous, unrelated conflicts, claiming to be from the current conflict. These old images have added to confusion over what is really happening in Ukraine right now. Some imagery may even be from sophisticated computer wargames using realistic CGI.
And as the tragedy of war for all parties in the region continues to grind on, these bizarre stories are a stark reminder that ultimately, the task of deciding the narrative of history in war usually falls to the victor. As of this hour, no one is quite certain who that will be.