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Ukrainians named an unidentified fighter pilot the “Ghost of Kiev” after reports that he had shot down at least six Russian fighter jets.
A yet-to-be-confirmed video circulating on social media shows the Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot flying above Kiev on February 23, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin formally invaded Ukraine.
If the reports are confirmed, the pilot would also gain the title of “fighter ace”, a term given to military aviators who have successfully shot down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat.
One video, allegedly of the fighter pilot, garnered more than four million views on Twitter on Friday.
“Reports are coming that a Ukrainian pilot has shot down six Russian Aircraft today, and might have possibly become the first 21st century fighter ace. The pilot, known as 'the Ghost of Kyiv', and his MiG-29 were seen in numerous videos from today,” wrote Twitter user Visegrad 24, who has about 93,000 followers.
The invasion of Ukraine is shaping up to be Europe’s first major armed conflict in the social media age, when the small screen of the smartphone is the dominant tool of communication, carrying with it the peril of the instantaneous spread of dangerous, even deadly, disinformation, AP reported.
At the end of the first day of military operations, the chief spokesman of Russia's Defence Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said his country had successfully hit 83 land targets — all Ukrainian military infrastructure.
Four Ukrainian fighter jets, one helicopter and four Bayraktar unmanned aerial vehicles had been also been destroyed, he said.
The US said Russia had gathered more than 150,000 troops at Ukraine's borders on the eve of the invasion, plus tens of thousands of Russian-backed fighters in breakaway enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
The number of Ukraine's active armed forces stands at 196,600, according to the authoritative IISS Military Balance report released last week.