The Russian military deployed highly trained ‘spy dolphins’ to secure its Black Sea naval HQ, satellites appear to have shown.
Images released by the US Naval Institute today show dolphin pens were moved to the gates of Sevastopol Harbour, Crimea in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine.
Dolphins are used by the Russian military for ‘counter diver’ operations.
The canny mammals trained at the Crimean State Oceanarium can reportedly fight off invading divers, carry bombs and even plant mines.
A small Russian ‘spy dolphin’ carries a bomb during a training exercise (image date unknown)
Russia took control of the dolphin unit after annexing Crimea in 2014. Moscow claimed the mammals ‘defected’ to Russia.
The Soviet Union began training military dolphins in Sevastopol nearly fifty years ago.
The harbour is home to the Russian Black Sea fleet – and numerous valuable warships, including the flagship Moskva before it sank.
Ukrainian missiles do not have the range to reach targets stationed at Sevastopol, but Kyiv could conceivably send underwater saboteurs to break in to the base.
The tactful mammals can reportedly fight off invading divers and even plant mines (file image)
The photographs suggest Russia moved dolphins to the entrance at Sevastopol in late February, days before it launched its full-scale invasion on February 24.
The US Navy’s San Diego-based Marine Mammal Program was established in 1959 after bottlenose dolphins were found to be skilled at delivering messages and identifying naval threats.
But keeping military dolphins isn’t always easy. In 2013, two-thirds of Russia’s military dolphins went absent without leave in the Black Sea – apparently in search of love.
An army source told MailOnline: ‘They deserted a naval exercise and went on manoeuvres of an amorous kind. They swam away to look for mates.’
Russian army trainers work with the sea mammals so they can protect valuable navy assets.
The news emerged as a family of dolphins evacuated from an aquarium in war-torn Kharkiv were pictured swimming at a safe haven in Odessa.
Kharkiv Dolphinarium thanked its ‘brave and dedicated’ trainers for their efforts in a Facebook post yesterday.
Odessa Dolphinarium reported: ‘They have already passed the vet check-up, adapt[ed] to a new home and [are] getting away from stress.’
White whales and a newborn dolphin with their mother and father have stayed in Kharkiv, where workers are still trying to find a new home for them.
A pair of dolphins relax at Odessa Dolphinarium after being evacuated from Kharkiv yesterday