Kirby on Russia giving award for hitting US drone: pilot was ‘at best, just an idiot’

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby
Greg Nash
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby addresses reporters during the daily briefing at the White House on Monday, March 20, 2023.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Russia awarding the two pilots who downed a U.S. drone earlier this month was “insulting” and that the Kremlin must have a “different definition” of bravery.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave the ‘Orders of Courage’ award earlier on Wednesday to the fighter pilots who were involved in the downing. U.S. officials have said that a Russian fighter jet struck the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone last week, damaging its propeller and forcing it to splash down in the Black Sea.

“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. If that’s bravery, then I guess they’ve got a different definition of it. Its ludicrous, its insulting,” Kirby said on Wednesday.

“In the Navy I grew up in, you don’t want to hit anything. Hitting anything’s bad for you. I’m sorry, I’ve got to throw the flag on this one. 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,” Kirby, an admiral in the Navy, added.

Shoigu lauded the pilots on Friday, when the award was announced, and said they stopped the drone from flying into an airspace claimed by Russia.

The award came after a video clip released by the Pentagon showed the Russian fighter approached the drone and released fuel as it passed, which U.S. officials have said was intended to blind the drone and drive it out of the area.

Kirby at the time said that while the U.S. may never know what the intent of the Russian pilot was, the incident was “intentional harassment” and “intentionally aggressive.”

“Now we don’t know whether that pilot was trying to intentionally ram that drone or not, but he did, video evidence was pretty conclusive,” Kirby said on Wednesday.

The U.S. has maintained that its drone was flying over international waters and in international airspace during the incident last week.

Tags John Kirby John Kirby Russia-Ukraine war sergei shoigu Sergei Shoigu US-Russia relations

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