Russia uses military trained dolphins at Black Sea naval base, satellite imagery shows

·2-min read
Stock image of dolphins  (PA Media)
Stock image of dolphins (PA Media)

Russia has deployed trained military dolphins in its invasion of Ukraine to protect its naval base in the Black Sea, satellite imagery has revealed.

Images showed two dolphin pens were placed at the entrance to Sevastopol harbour, sheltered just inside a sea wall, around the time of the invasion of Ukraine.

The dolphins, uncovered by an analysis from the US Naval Institute, could be placed there for “counter-diver operations” to prevent Ukrainian forces from infiltrating the harbour underwater to sabotage warships.

The Sevastopol naval base is a key asset for the Russian Navy during the war with Ukraine as it is in the southern tip of Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014.

According to the USNI analysis, many high-value Russian ships are kept out of range of Ukrainian missiles but are vulnerable to undersea sabotage.

“This could prevent Ukrainian special operations forces from infiltrating the harbour underwater to sabotage warships,” said the USNI News report.

It is unclear whether Ukraine has conducted any such operations during the war.

Ukraine previously had trained dolphins at an aquarium near Sevastopol in a Soviet-era scheme that fell into neglect in the 1990s.

It was resurrected in 2012, only for the animals to be taken by Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

Both the US and the Soviet Union are known to have developed the use of dolphins in the Cold War.

The echolocation of dolphins can be useful in the detection of mines.

The US has reportedly spent at least $28m in keeping its own collection of dolphins and sea lions for military purposes.

The satellite discovery is not the first time Russia’s use of dolphins for military uses has made headlines.

In 2018, the Black Sea Fleet’s dolphins were deployed for several months to Russia’s naval base in Tartus, Syria, according to satellite photos.

Later in 2019, a trained beluga whale appeared in Norway who locals nicknamed ‘Hvaldimir’.

It was reported at the time to be a potential escapee of the Russian Navy’s dolphin programme.

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