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Russia-Ukraine conflict: Russia deploys dolphins to protect an important naval base in the Black Sea

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Russia deploys dolphins to protect a naval base in the Black Sea - Photo 1.

Satellite images are said to have detected the deployment of dolphins by Russia to guard a naval base in the Black Sea. Photo USNI News

According to USNI News, the Russian Navy has placed two dolphin pens at the entrance to the port of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea. The dolphin “warriors” were moved here in February, around the time of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a review of satellite images said.

Sevastopol is the most important naval base of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. Dolphins can be tasked with anti-infiltration missions by foreign “divers” – a role traditionally used by both the United States and Russia for marine mammals.

This could prevent Ukrainian special forces from entering the harbor from underwater to sabotage warships.

Inside the port, many valuable Russian Navy ships are located outside the range of Ukrainian missiles but are vulnerable to sabotage from the seabed, according to satellite images.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy also developed a number of marine mammal training programs, including training dolphins in the Black Sea.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the dolphin training unit transferred to the Ukrainian army but remained largely inactive.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the dolphin training unit came under the control of the Russian Navy. These training programs have since been reintroduced and expanded.

This is part of a broader reinvestment of the Russian military in marine mammal programs over the past 10 years. The plan includes the training unit of the Black Sea Fleet and a separate operating unit in the Arctic.

In the northern Arctic, Russia’s Northern Fleet trains and employs different types of marine mammals. Beluga whales and seals, both of which have a thick layer of fat to keep warm, are better able to withstand the cold than the bottlenose dolphins used in the Black Sea.

The Arctic Unit has also become more active in recent years. Beluga whale pens have also now been established at Olenya Guba – the secret naval base of the GUGI (Deep Sea Research Bureau) – which manages the Russian military’s important undersea espionage assets.

On April 23, 2019, a trained beluga whale appeared in northern Norway. Nicknamed “Hvaldimir” by locals, it is believed the whale escaped from a Russian Navy training program, according to the BBC.

In 2018, dolphin “warriors” of the Black Sea Fleet were deployed for several months to Russia’s Mediterranean naval base in Tartus, Syria, according to satellite images. The dolphin “warriors” in that deployment are very similar to the dolphins currently present in the port of Sevastopol.

It is not clear whether Ukraine is planning any combat operations against Sevastopol. But dolphins are seen by naval analysts as an effective defense against divers.

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