Ukraine wants its combat dolphins back

Dolphins in Ukraine

Ukraine demands the return of its military animals from Crimea, but Russia is unlikely to agree

LAST UPDATED AT 12:21 ON Tue 1 Jul 2014

Ukrainian officials have demanded that the Russian navy return military dolphins that were seized during the annexation of Crimea, the Russian news site RBTH reports.

"The military dolphins need to be returned to our country in the same way that Russia returned Ukraine's seized military equipment," first deputy head of the Henichesk Regional State Administration, Dmitry Yunusov said.

The pod of bottlenose dolphins have been highly trained to detect underwater risks such as sea mines, enemy divers and spying equipment, and thus are extremely valuable navy assets.

They are currently being held at a public aquarium in Sevastopol's Kozacha Bay, formerly owned by the Ukrainian military. 

Soviet training of 'killer dolphins' began in Crimea in the 1960s. Following the break-up of the USSR, the dolphin training division was handed over to the Ukrainian navy.

When Russian forces annexed Crimea in March, they took control of Ukraine's naval bases in the region, including the military bottlenose dolphins, sea lions and fur seals.

It is unlikely that Russia will agree to return the animals as it has invested in "preserving and redirecting the combat dolphin programme towards the Russian navy", according to state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about