While the brutal physical fighting continues on the frontlines in Ukraine, the war of words over Russia’s full-scale invasion heated up slightly on Wednesday evening.

Who’s the idiot?

The Russian pilot who flew his plane into a U.S. drone last week, causing it to crash over the Black Sea.

Pentagon video showed what it says were Russian jets swarming the drone, dumping fuel on it and then colliding with it before it plunges.

Russia announced on March 17 that the pilots flying the Su-27 were given a prestigious award, a move which has slightly baffled White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening, he said: “I don’t know of another military in the world... that has awarded a pilot for smashing into a drone. If that’s bravery then I guess they’ve got a different definition,” Kirby said.

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“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 risks and at best just an idiot.”

And what about the strawman?

Besides taking aim at the pilot, Kirby also dismissed Russian complaints about Britain’s announcement that it will send Ukraine armor-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium.

The Kremlin has reacted angrily to the move, suggesting that it amounts to nuclear escalation.

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“This is a step towards a further escalation, and a serious one at that,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

He added that the use of such ammunition would “sharply reduce” Ukraine’s ability to “produce high-quality, uncontaminated food.”

Kirby dismissed the rhetoric as a “strawman” – a flawed statement or argument that is presented in the course of a debate for the sole purpose of being refuted, without actually addressing the issue at hand.

The ammunition, which enhances ability to overcome defenses on tanks, “is not radioactive” and “not anywhere close to going into” the sphere of nuclear weaponry, Kirby added.

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“This is a commonplace type of munition that is used particularly for its armor-piercing capabilities. So again, if Russia is particularly concerned about the welfare of their tanks and their tank soldiers... they could just take them across the border back into Russia,” he said.

“I think what’s really going on here is Russia just doesn’t want Ukraine to continue to take out its tanks.”

Is Kirby right?

Absolutely, and if you want to brush up on your depleted uranium knowledge, Kyiv Post has a handy guide here.

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