The Biden administration blasted Russia for honoring two pilots for downing a U.S. drone in international airspace while saying the aviator who crashed into the drone was “at best, just an idiot.”
Last week, the Kremlin issued state awards to the fighter jet pilots responsible for downing the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea earlier the week prior. In an official statement, the Ministry of Defense commended the pilots for preventing the drone from “violating the boundaries of the temporary airspace regime established for the special military operation.”
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National Security Council spokesman John Kirby spoke with reporters Wednesday about the matter while making fun of the Russian government for portraying the pilots as heroes.
“I don’t know of another military in the world, another air force in the world that would award a pilot for smashing into a drone,” he said during a White House press briefing. “If that’s bravery, I guess they have a different definition of it.”
Russia said the drone was flying with its transponders off. Kirby said U.S. officials don’t know if the pilot intentionally crashed into the aircraft “but he did.”
“Either way, in the Navy I grew up in, you don’t want to hit anything. Hitting anything is bad for you,” he said. “I have no clue why they would give a bravery award to a pilot who was at worst maliciously putting himself and U.S. property at great risk and at best, just an idiot.”
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Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said last week that officials have seen more “unprofessional” and “unsafe” behavior from Russian pilots in Syria since March 1. He said Russian aircraft have become emboldened to act aggressively toward U.S. bases in a way not typical of an organized military force.
Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report.