My Final Statement on the #GhostofKyiv Story and it’s effects
Firstly, my utmost respect goes out to all those who’ve suffered at the hands of this conflict, the bravery of the Ukrainian troops, as well as those in Poland, Belarus and Russia who’ve protested against the atrocities currently being committed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I hope you’ll all join me in wishing for a speedy end to this conflict, with as little loss of life as possible.
I sent a tweet while sharing information on my Discord server about what I thought was an intriguing and hopeful story, and it appears to have aided in spawning some legendary tale that has angered many people due to its unconfirmed nature, and after numerous personal attacks on Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and Discord alike, I want to stop sending out short tweets that make context a problem, and instead set the record completely straight once and for all.
At just past 4am on February 25th (yes I am a crazy insomniac) I put out a tweet showcasing the apparent Ukraine Air Force MiG-29 pilot whom I’d heard nicknamed “The Ghost of Kyiv”. I mentioned how “[He] has scored a confirmed three if not four aerial victories today”, followed by “What a f***ing chad! Don’t count the Ukrainian Air Force out just yet”.
The story, as far as I can tell, originated from a previous tweet shared by user @aldin_ww, showing footage of what appeared to be a Ukrainian Air Force operated MiG-29 Fulcrum, flying over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv after the country’s Air Force was believed to have been neutralised, due to early losses, or the destruction of capture of its military air bases. I first heard the name “Ghost of Kyiv” on my community Discord server, shared by user MrFisherman#1238 and thegopnikfish#5339, and quickly became intrigued by the story. As Discord users shared that he’d reportedly “bagged another one”, having initially claimed that two kills had been confirmed by him, I wanted to share what in my opinion was a real life David and Goliath story. Nonetheless, this was at 2am, and I decided to remove myself from the discussion and head to bed.
When the conflict broke out I first considered taking a stance of complete silence on social media, rather than “choosing sides” and creating discussion as someone who has no credibility whatsoever in this type of story. Alas, after seeing more footage I decided that I wanted my channel and community to be known as supporters of the Ukrainian defenders and their cause. Having surfed through Twitter for some two more hours I rediscovered the video footage of the MiG-29 above Kyiv, the pilot Id come to refer to as “The Ghost” or “The Ghost of Kyiv”. I shared my initial tweet, thinking that it may be intriguing to the 40 or so people who tend to frequent my Twitter posts, and then went to sleep.
Some five hours later, I woke up to find that the tweet had over 3,000 likes and multiple hundreds of retweets, with many people latching onto this apparent story of hope, and even some journalists and news publications reporting the existence of “The Ghost” as fact (a couple of which had tried to message me to ask for my own sources, most did not). There were also a large number of comments on the tweet asking where I’d gotten this information from and how exactly I was sourcing it, and others already angry that I’d not presented any real evidence of the claimed 3 kills in the first place, during a war that had already seen several professional sources perpetuating misinformation. The vast majority however were saying that even if the claimed were NOT true, the story was being used as a strong morale booster for the Ukrainian people and their supporters. I also saw on my discord that there’d been claims of two MORE kills by this pilot since the fourth was suggested at the time of my initial tweet, and responded to one user saying “reportedly, he may be up to six now”.
Nonetheless, the idea of spreading misinformation, no matter how intriguing the story, was not something I wanted to align with, so I immediately put out a tweet apologising, saying that “I may have jumped on [the] story too quickly”, having no real evidence to back it up, and I stated that anyone WITH any evidence should please share it, but that nobody should take my tweet and the story of the Ghost of Kyiv as fact until some evidence was brought up.
Unfortunately various sources saw only the initial tweet, or the multitude of other tweets of the same nature all based on my first one, as I seemed to be the first to use the nickname on Twitter. Many even claimed the figure of six aerial kills as fact, ignoring the fact that Id only said “reportedly” and had initially only stated 3, and perhaps a 4th. The way my tweets were worded did admittedly make it seem as if I had more evidence than I did (or… any!) and for this I also apologised profusely to as many amicable responses and private messages as I could, (ignoring the more aggressive or ‘toxic’ ones).
In this tweet I happened to share a piece of artwork I found, of a MiG-29 aircraft and the words “The Ghost of Kyiv” and also asked underneath that the original creator of it should come forward. Since the tweets had gotten MUCH more attention than anything I regularly posted (my usual tweets average some 40 likes and a handful of comments) I wanted to give credit to the creator rather than potentially having people believe I’d made it myself or attempted to steal it.
Alas, I again received a reply that the truth of the story might be less important than the story itself and the boost it would give to morale, and I agreed. I also said however that IF the story turned out to be nothing more than rumour, that the idea of creating and seling merchandise based on it would not be a bad thing, as it wouldn’t actually pull from real people or events, but a work of fiction. I said “Wouldn’t feel tasteful otherwise”.
This tweet has been taken completely out of context by many sources claiming that I AM now trying to sell merchandise to make a profit off of the war, which is completely and utterly untrue. The VERY NEXT comment I made directly under this tweet, was that “ I wouldn't dream of trying to profit off this myself, that'd be shady as f***, BUT it could still do some good if I were to do it and donate the proceeds. Doubt I will anyway though”. The thinking was that the various protesters in Belarus, Poland or Russia would perhaps like to sport a t-shirt saying “I stand with the Ghost” or something of the like, as may many foreign supporters of Ukraine’s plight.
This is when I started to be called a “war profiteerer” and people began attacking me for the “shameful” action of using people’s dearth and the destruction of property for personal gain, which I immediately replied with the above response, that I would never want to make a cent off the ‘merch’ myself. Unfortunately by this point it seemed the damage was done. Many Reddit and Twitter threads began discussing my apparent plans to sell merch and take the profits, with many also stating that I’d made the whole thing up myself just for the sake of profit. This also could not be further from the truth.
I merely shared what I thought was an interesting and hopeful story, among the few followers I thought may also appreciate hearing it, and unfortunately worded it like an idiot making it seem more credible than it ever was. I’ve tried to apologise as much as possible for this and I will again, but many people who made the accusations clearly missed the initial apology as well as my statement that I’d never, even IF I were to make merchandise myself, attempt to profit from it in any way. For that too, I have and do apologise.
It is unfortunate that I also continued to handle the situation with somewhat less care, maturity and professionalism than was required, instead hoping that my treating it as more of a joking matter (sharing a video of a Russian surface to air missile vehicle and saying “‘Bring it on’ says the Ghost”), that people would do the same. I apologise too for attempting to make such light of the situation, when in fact I should most probably have stopped posting anything at all for the near future.
I also happened to share one source from a former US Navy pilot, and another from Navy pilot and YouTuber Ward Carrol, either supporting the existence of “The Ghost of Kyiv” or adding their creativity into the story.
I said “I am really glad this story is still providing people with hope and intrigue, regardless of the truth or substance to it”.
Since then, I’ve had many people giving me advice. Some suggesting I delete everything to remove my involvement in this piece of “propaganda”, some saying that I should do all I could to quell the rumours, or others saying that to delete my tweets would look an attempt to ‘cover up’ my wrongdoing, or would “kill the myth” according to user @allaayallay. In the end I decided that deleting everything BUT the initial tweet, not just to distance myself from the issue, but also to prevent any sort of spread of further misinformation as well as the potential for the short tweets to be taken out of context or paraphrased wrongly, as happened by discord user and YouTube creator TheRealNap0le0n. From then on I decided to have no direct influence on tweets I made, but sharing actual sourced information from elsewhere only, such as posts from The Kyiv Independent (an journalism site). I continued however to disagree with claims that my researching ability was too poor or completely nonexistent that nobody should ever respect my statements, rather than keeping silent, and for this too, I apologise. I only ever agreed however that I do have zero credibility to make statements and that nobody should take what I say as proof or evidence without independent sources with more knowledge no credibility than myself, and although this may come off to some as irresponsible, I do stand by that statement and always have, both in my social media and my YouTube profession.
I apologise for my poor handling of an out-of-hand situation, and my poorly worded tweets that came off unprofessionally or too vaguely to dispel the claims that I was attempting some way to profit from the horrific acts happening to the Ukrainian people. I also apologise for the statements that I shouldn’t HAVE to substantiate what I tweet, because I’m simply a YouTuber, gamer, and not a credible news site or professional journalist. I was trying to wipe my hands of the wrong-doing of sharing misinformation, and I was wrong to do this.
I’m a young man, with a mental disorder that causes difficulty in social interaction, and I’m still learning how to handle a large social media presence, especially when short statements go “viral” as this instance has. I’m always trying to do better, and handle things professionally, and in this instance I’ve betrayed that several times. I am sorry.
What I cannot apologise for is the creation of the story, or the character of “The Ghost of Kyiv”, as I did not create it and have no wish to take credit for its creation. “ I'm so glad its led not only to hope and bravery among Ukraine and its supporters, but also to creativity and art like this.” I posted on the YouTube video “Ghost of Kyiv - Epic Orchestral Music” by YouTube music creator Lucas Ricciotti.
I cannot apologise for the further misinformation that is still being spread by other users on Twitter or various other social media platforms, but I can state that I have nothing to do with it nor condone people to perpetuate it.
I also cannot apologise for the merchandise that IS currently being sold, all I can hope for is that the majority of sites selling such are also planning to donate all proceeds to Ukrainian charities, such as American YouTuber Funker530 is doing.
I urge you all not to purchase any merchandise that does NOT openly promise to do the same, as that would be war profiteering, an act I do condemn in the harshest way.
The last thing I cannot apologise for are the attacks by users such as “wow my name is Ryan” “Spit Flyer”, “Justin” and “Validuz” (@ handles to remain unshared to prevent ‘witch-hunting’) who either through mistake or refusal to admit their own wrongdoing have denied, doctored or ignored the actual statements I have made and proven, accusing me of selling merch for profit currently, or stating that I “gleefully continued to share misinformation”, and “never said that I’d donate any proceeds”, or that I “remain unapologetic and continue to spread lies”, all of which I hope to have proven are baseless and completely untrue.
I never meant to lie, and honestly don’t believe I have, I only meant to share what I thought was a truthful story that turned out to be a lie, or more so a rumour, and for that, again, I apologise. I apologise for everything I can, and I hope that people can continue to support the positive story of the fictional character “The Ghost of Kyiv” and his supposed exploits over Ukraine’s invaders. I hope it continues to give hope to Ukraine’s supporters, and I hope that people will not hate me for my mistakes that lead to much of this situation getting out of hand. I urge you to remember that the first thing I did as soon as I could was tell everyone NOT to treat the story as factual without further evidence I could not yet provide for which I apologised, the fact that I at no point attempted to or even seriously planned to make my OWN merchandise out of this conflict, nor would I have ever wanted to profit from it if I had, as well as remember the fact that both the Ukraine ministry of defence, Ukrainian government, and many thousands of not hundreds of thousands of people both professional and casual, will enjoy and appreciate the story of the Ukrainian hero known only as “The Ghost of Kyiv”
Thank you al, Godspeed Ghost of Kyiv, and of course
Joshua ~ theScottishKoala