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Russia’s Military Dolphins May Have Escaped, Intelligence Analyst Says

Russia’s Military Dolphins May Have Escaped
After severe weather in the Black Sea, Russia’s military dolphins may have escaped. Credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Severe weather hit the Black Sea this week, causing significant damage along the coast. One notable impact was on the harbor of Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, where the Russian navy housed its military dolphins.

The storm left the pens holding these dolphins badly damaged. It is uncertain whether the dolphins are still in their enclosures or if they took the opportunity to escape.

These findings come from H. I. Sutton, a journalist and open-source intelligence analyst. Sutton discovered this by studying recent satellite images.

In a post on X, Sutton wrote: “A massive storm battered Crimea on…Nov 26-27. Preliminary analysis reveals that the dolphin pens in Sevastopol harbor are gone(!) 100%.”

There have been suspicions for a while that Russia is using trained military dolphins in its invasion of Ukraine. In April 2022, the US Naval Institute (USNI) proposed the idea that these animals might be deployed to safeguard Russia’s naval base in the Black Sea.

Two dolphin pens at the entrance to Sevastopol harbor

In early February of last year, two dolphin pens were set up at the entrance of Sevastopol harbor.

Russian vessels at the base might be safe from Ukrainian missiles, but there is concern about potential underwater sabotage. This is believed to be the reason for having dolphins in the harbor, as reported by IFL Science.

After the USSR dissolved, Ukraine took in the dolphins trained during the Cold War. However, in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, they reclaimed possession of these marine animals.

Ukrainian sources reported that despite Russia’s attempts to expand the program, some of the marine soldiers refused to “defect.”

Russia is not the only country employing aquatic defense tactics. Several navies worldwide utilize trained dolphins and whales for various tasks. These tasks range from safeguarding vessels and bases to retrieving objects from the seafloor and detecting mines.

Russian navy also used beluga whales

Alongside dolphins, the Russian navy has employed beluga whales for military purposes. In 2019, a beluga whale, suspected to be a spy, was spotted in Norwegian waters wearing a harness labeled “Equipment of St. Petersburg,” according to IFL Science.

Norwegian biologists named it Hvaldimir, speculating that it might have escaped from its enclosure. Since then, Hvaldimir has been observed exploring the waters around Sweden.

If the dolphins have indeed escaped, they might thrive in the Black Sea. The waters already host various types of bottlenose dolphins and other cetacean species. However, their well-being could be at risk due to the ongoing conflict in the area.

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