The Ghost of Kyiv: Urban legend spreads hope in Ukraine

As the war in Eastern Europe rages on, morale has been unfortunately low. The people of Ukraine and Russia alike seem to see the war as a pointless exercise to fulfill the aesthetic preferences of a madman. In dire times like these, stories of heroic acts often spread rapidly among the populace. This war has been no exception. The Ghost of Kyiv is a fighter jet that allegedly took down six Russian jets during the first 30 hours of the war: two Su-35s, one Su-27, one MiG-29 and two Su-25s. The jet itself is a MiG-29 Fulcrum model and, if confirmed, would be the first flying ace (a plane that took down five or more enemy aircraft) of the 21st century.

An Internet meme depicting Tobey Macguire’s spiderman with a fighter pilot helmet circulated Twitter.

The primary evidence for The Ghost of Kyiv has been videos that spread across social media following the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine. Unfortunately for the believers out there, however, many of these videos were later shown to be unrelated to the current conflict going on. The vast majority of the videos were old footage from unrelated conflicts, some of the viral videos weren’t even from Europe. Hilariously, one of the videos showcasing The Ghost of Kyiv destroying an enemy fighter was rendered and doctored footage from an old video game’s flight simulator.

It may not even be feasible for a single MiG-29 Fulcrum model aircraft to perform such a task. The basic MiG-29 can carry a maximum of six air-to-air missiles and 150 rounds of 30mm ammunition. It has a notoriously short range, and would likely not be able to patrol for very long in low-level airspace. This means that the pilot would require multiple aircraft to be on standby just for their personal use, and all would need to be perfectly maintained and fueled for quick switches. Additionally, the kill ratio would need to be near-perfect to pull off a stunt like this. While The Ghost of Kyiv is famous for a reason, and we wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t doing something incredible, the implausible is beginning to border on impossible.

Anti-war demonstrators protest in Washington D.C.

The Ukrainian government also has yet to fully confirm or deny the existence of such a fighter plane. This makes sense, as they likely wouldn’t want to give away possible military tactics they may be planning on using in the future. Additionally, the fighter pilot who supposedly carried out these missions has yet to have their identity confirmed, assuming they exist in the first place. Rumors have spread on Twitter and Facebook that the pilot of The Ghost of Kyiv was a man by the name of Samuyil Hyde. Better known as Sam Hyde, he is infamous for his role in the Umpqua Community College Mass Shooting, the Sutherland Springs Church Shooting, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting and alleged murder in Atlanta, among other violent crimes. This was later confirmed to be a hoax, as Hyde is an American sketch comedian with no connection to the Ukrainian military.

Even if The Ghost of Kyiv isn’t a real entity in operation at the moment, the Ukrainian government has still elected to promote it as such. Petro Poroshenko, the former president of Ukraine, posted a photo of the alleged fighter pilot to Twitter with the caption “It causes terror in enemies and pride in Ukrainians. He has 6 victories over Russian pilots!” New folk heroes like this can be a huge morale booster for both the Ukrainian military and the civilians of Ukraine. There have been quite a few stories to come out of this war describing the bravery of the common citizen. In one of the more famous examples, a woman confronting Russian soldiers asks them what they are doing on her land. After some back and forth, the woman told them that “you should put sunflower seeds in your pockets so that they will grow on Ukrainian land after you die,” before walking away. This inspirational story is similar to The Ghost of Kyiv. Both show an individual performing an act of bravery in support of their country.

While the story itself may be improbable, the legend of The Ghost of Kyiv is what really matters. It’s far too easy for me to sit here and “well actually” at every little thing that shows up in the newsfeed. What really matters here is not whether The Ghost of Kyiv exists, but rather what the story is doing for the people of Ukraine. In a time of hyper-rationality and overdependence on the scientific process, a sense of wonder and mysticism is missing in all of our lives. Stories like this, just like the American stories of John Henry and Davy Crockett, are meant to inspire and motivate, not to necessarily be wholly accurate. Choosing to believe in myths and legends is not foolish, you should take motivation where you can get it. Hold firm to your values, stand up for your beliefs and don’t let this Adam Conover wannabe tell you what to think.

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