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Legendary Ukrainian Top Gun Who Led Infamous ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ Pilot Division Dies in Black Sea

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An experienced Ukrainian Top Gun who used the callsign ‘Grandfather’ and led the infamous ‘Ghost of Kyiv’ pilot division has been killed in combat.

Colonel Mykhailo Matyushenko was head of the Air Force’s 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade, which guarded the airspace over the capital.

According to Ukraine’s Pravda news site, the 61-year-old led an infamous group of fighter pilots collectively known as “The Ghost of Kiev.”

Earlier in the war, the Ghost was thought to be related to a Ukrainian Top Gun that had shot down as many as 40 Russian fighter jets. But this was later revealed as a hoax spread across Ukraine to boost morale, and Kiev eventually revealed that the real Ghosts are the ones defending the country in the sky.

Matyuchenko died while on a mission over the Black Sea and a funeral is being held for him today in his hometown of Bucha, the horror city on the outskirts of Kiev, where Russia is accused of committing horrific war crimes.

The mayor of the city, Anatoly Fedoruk, paid tribute to the aviator, saying in a Facebook post: “Matyushenko passed on his invaluable experience to the younger generation of fighter pilots.

“And only now can we tell the true story: ‘The Ghosts of Kyiv’ were led by a pilot from Bucha.”

Colonel Mykhailo Matyushenko who used the callsign ‘Grandfather’ and led the infamous ‘Ghost of Kiev’ pilot division has been killed in combat

Earlier in the war, the Ghost was thought to be linked to a Ukrainian Top Gun (pictured) that had shot down as many as 40 Russian fighters.  But this later turned out to be a hoax spread by Ukraine to boost morale, and Kiev eventually revealed that the real Ghosts are the ones defending the country in the sky

Earlier in the war, the Ghost was thought to be linked to a Ukrainian Top Gun (pictured) that had shot down as many as 40 Russian fighters. But this later turned out to be a hoax spread by Ukraine to boost morale, and Kiev eventually revealed that the real Ghosts are the ones defending the country in the sky

Matyushenko served in a number of military units and also flew civilian aircraft, worked as a manager at a Ukrainian airline before Putin launched his barbarian invasion and re-enlisted.

Fedoruk said that under Matyushenko’s command, the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade has never suffered any aerial defeats.

His comrades recalled an incident where “Grandfather” crashed into an Aero L-39 Albatross training aircraft in a dogfight.

He simulated an attack in a Ukrainian MiG-29 on a pair of Russian Su-30s whose pilots were fooled and withdrew.

After dominating the airspace over the capital, he began to strengthen Ukraine’s control of the airspace over the southern and eastern fronts.

Major Stepan Tarabalka is depicted on an official Air Force statue

The fighter pilot is not the real 'Ghost of Kiev' because there is none (Telegram image, original source unknown)

Major Stepan Tarabalka (pictured left and right) was claimed to be the real ‘spirit of Kiev’ before the army confessed

A search and rescue mission was conducted for the 61-year-old after his death in the Black Sea in June and his body was eventually recovered and returned home yesterday.

A day after Putin’s invasion, the story of the anonymous ‘Ghost of Kiev’ became widespread and became one of the symbols of Ukraine’s audacious resistance to Russia.

The mythical 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade pilot is said to have shot down 40 Kremlin fighter jets to defend the capital.

But the Ukrainian military eventually admitted that the icon was just a hoax to boost morale after Air Force Major Stepan Tarabalka, 29, was mistakenly identified as the pilot.

The Air Force wrote at the time: “The Ghost of Kyiv is a superhero legend whose character was created by Ukrainians!”

“The information about the death of The Ghost of Kiev is incorrect.

“The Ghost Of Kiev is alive, it embodies the collective spirit of the highly qualified pilots of the Tactical Aviation Brigade who successfully defend Kiev and the region.”

Mr. Tarabalka was a real pilot who was killed in battle on March 13th. He was posthumously awarded the title Hero of Ukraine.

Two days before his death, the Ukrainian General Staff shared this photo of the legendary fighter sitting in the cockpit.  She captioned it: 'Hello occupier, I'm coming for your soul!'

Two days before his death, the Ukrainian General Staff shared this photo of the legendary fighter sitting in the cockpit. She captioned it: ‘Hello occupier, I’m coming for your soul!’

Memes, photos and even footage from a flight simulator video game circulating on social media claimed to show the Ghost of Kiev during combat.

A day later, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted a photo shared three years earlier by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry showing the Kiev Ghost shooting down six Russian pilots.

Two days later, Ukraine’s official Twitter account shared a video featuring the same photo, along with footage of fighter jets set to pulsating music with the caption: “People call him the Spirit of Kiev.

“And for good reason – this UAF ace dominates the skies over our capital and our country, and has already become a nightmare for invading Russian planes.”

By the time news outlets mistakenly identified the pilot as Tarabalka, reports had increased the ghost’s toll to 40 aircraft.

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

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

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

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