Russia and the Ukraine have been at odds ever since a popular uprising in the Ukraine forced pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov out of office in January, and now the hostilities have risen to a new level -- Russia captured the Ukraine's combat dolphins when it annexed Crimea and Ukraine wants them back.
The story would be funny if it wasn't sad. The Ukraine had (and now Russia has) a cadre of trained combat dolphins. The militarized dolphins have been trained to defend ships in the harbor against divers. According to an ABC News report, the dolphin training program was run in Sevastopol, which also houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The dolphins are also trained to detect underwater mines and other hazards, according to a report in the Liberty Voice. Some have suggested that a program has been developed to allow the dolphins to be trained in using weapons such as knives and pistols.
Ukraine's objection stems from the fact that Russia did not allow the dolphins to choose whether they would defect to Russian service or transfer to Kiev, where they could continue to serve in the Ukrainian military as they did with other members of the Ukraine's military stationed in the Crimea region during the Russian takeover. Sources did not suggest any method by which the Ukrainian (or Russian) military brass would be able to decipher the dolphins' answer if the Russian authorities did give them the option.
As for Russia, they have indicated a distinct disinclination to return the militarized combat dolphins. A report in the Guardian quotes a Russian military source saying:
"(Russian) Engineers are developing new aquarium technologies for new programs to more efficiently use dolphins under water. Our specialists developed new devices that convert dolphins' underwater sonar detection of targets into a signal to the operator's monitor. The Ukrainian navy lacked funds for such know-how, and some projects had to be mothballed."Russia isn't the only country to have a combat dolphin. It is believed that Ukraine sold at least two combat dolphins to Iran in 2000, though it is also believed that Iran's combat dolphin program has been discontinued, leaving only one nation other than Russia (and arguably Ukraine if they manage to talk Vladimir Putin into giving their combat dolphins back) with a combat dolphin program - the United States.
According to the report in the Guardian, the U.S. Navy has a force of about 75 trained combat dolphins, along with an unknown number of sea lions, stationed in San Diego.
What do you think? Should Russia give the Ukraine their combat dolphins? Should any nation - Russia, the Ukraine, the U.S. or anyone else - even be training dolphins for combat?
[Photos via Bing]