According to a naval analyst, satellite images from Maxar Technologies show that Russia has deployed trained dolphins at the entrance to Sevastopol Harbor in Crimea, which was occupied by Russian troops in 2014, writes The Washington Post.
X Sutton, a submarine analyst who first reported dolphins to the US Navy on Wednesday, said the enclosures with dolphins were moved there in February, around the time of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
He said dolphins could be used to counter Ukrainian saboteur divers in an attempt to break into a port to sabotage Russian warships, a role he said the United States and Russia had previously trained marine mammals for.
In an email to The Post, a representative of Maxar Technologies agreed with Sutton’s analysis and explanation of the enclosures for the dolphins recently photographed by their satellites.
Since the 1960s, the US Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions to help protect against underwater threats. According to marine experts, dolphins have the most sophisticated sonar known to science, making it relatively easy for them to detect mines and other potentially dangerous objects on the ocean floor that are difficult to detect with an electronic sonar.
The US Navy’s San Diego-based marine mammal training program was declassified in the 1990s. This has made it easier for officials to counter the persistent claims of animal rights activists that mammals have been used as offensive weapons, a myth popularized by the 1973 science fiction film Dolphin Day, in which a scientist teaches dolphins to communicate with humans. In the film, dolphins were abducted and attempted to use as part of a political assassination attempt.
Russia used a base in Sevastopol in Soviet times to train dolphins for military purposes, such as planting explosives on a ship or searching for mines. Whether they were ever involved in military operations is unknown. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Sevastopol facility was used by Ukraine to train dolphins for therapy sessions. Russia resumed training for marine mammals after taking control of the port city in 2014.
In 2019, Norwegian media reported that a white whale in a harness had risen to the surface off the coast of the country. This led local naval experts to speculate that they had encountered a mammal that was part of Russia’s naval training program.