Moscow honors pilot who crashed US drone, Washington labels him ‘at best an idiot’

Moscow on Wednesday awarded medals and honored with Orders of Courage the Su-27 pilots who intercepted the US drone which crashed into the Black Sea, while Washington labelled the pilot it blames for causing the crash as being “at best an idiot.”

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu awarded Gold Star medals and bestowed the Orders of Courage on the two pilots, the ministry said.

“In addition, the Orders of Courage were bestowed on the pilots of Su-27 planes who prevented an American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle from violating the airspace temporarily restricted for flights for the purposes of the special military operation,” the ministry statement added.

Meanwhile, John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, said: “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. It’s ludicrous. It’s insulting.”

Kirby added: “I have no clue why they would give a bravery award to a pilot who was at worst maliciously putting himself and US property at great risk and at best just an idiot.”

A US military surveillance drone (MQ-9 Reaper) crashed into the Black Sea on March 14 after an encounter with Russian Su-27 fighter jets in international airspace near territory Russia claims to have annexed from Ukraine.

The US and Russian offered different versions of events diverging over the cause of the drone’s crash. The US maintains that a Russian Su-27 jet clipped the propeller of the drone which led to the crash; while Russia denies any physical contact between its jets and the drone, and says, “the device went out of control as a result of sharp maneuvering,” then crashed.

This was the first such incident between Washington and Moscow since the latter launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

On Monday, the Russian defense ministry said a Russian Su-35 fighter jet was scrambled over the Baltic Sea to intercept two US B-52H strategic bombers flying towards the Russian border. Washington denies the incident took place.

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