Ukraine’s Combat Dolphins Are Now Russia’s Combat Dolphins

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 26 2014 6:45 PM

Ukraine’s Combat Dolphins Are Now Russia’s Combat Dolphins

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a visit to an oceanarium near Vladivostok.

Photo by ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Usually after a break up in a relationship, you divvy up stuff—no matter how nasty the split. You don’t, traditionally, rent a U-Haul and take your things, and all of your ex’s stuff, with you to a new beau’s pad. But, that’s apparently not how breakups work in Russia—particularly the geo-political kind. They appear to be a tad more zero-sum.

How zero-sum are we talking? On Wednesday, the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, reports that one of the perks of the whole annexation “deal” is that Russia doesn’t just get Crimea, it’s keeping Ukraine’s “combat dolphin program” that is based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. The dolphins do not appear to have the right to self-determination, as RIA Novosti reports, “the dolphins themselves have now become Russian following the reunification of Crimea with Russia last week.”

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Here’s more on what exactly the point of a squadron of combat Flippers is, via RIA Novosti:

The dolphins are trained to patrol open water and attack or attach buoys to items of military interest, such as mines on the sea floor or combat scuba divers trained to slip past enemy security perimeters, known as frogmen. Man-made sonar systems are often incapable of detecting such small objects in crowded environments such as harbors.

The combat dolphin program, started in the 1960s by the Soviet Union, was ceded to the Ukrainian navy after the independence. It was initially converted to serve civilian functions, such as working with disabled children, according to RIA Novosti, before being remilitarized in 2011. The program had been set to be disbanded again in April.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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