Russia has a unique team of guards protecting its ships at a critical port in the Black Sea. Satellite images show that Moscow placed specially trained dolphins at its base in Sevastopol harbor in Crimea, reports the Guardian. The images, first revealed by the US Naval Institute, show that Russia placed two dolphin pens at the base in February, around the time its invasion of Ukraine began. The Washington Post also obtained the images. The dolphins' likely mission: to look for mines and enemy divers.
Russia has long been known to use dolphins—and even the occasional beluga whale—for such purposes, and the US Navy does the same, as the New York Times previously explained. Sea lions also are in the mix. Dolphins, though, are especially prized because they have incredible sonar that helps them find objects on the ocean floor. Plus, they can dive deeper than humans. The Times, though, debunks a myth: The military dolphins are not trained to kill. "Their mission is simply to find and mark things, and then exit the area as quickly as possible; there are no weaponized dolphins."
The USNI describes Sevastopol as Russia's most important base in the Black Sea, with a slew of "high-value" ships docked there. And the biggest threat to them is undersea sabotage rather than a missile attack, hence the dolphin guards. Russia also is believed to have used dolphins to protect its ships at a base in Syria a few years ago, per the Guardian. (A beluga whale believed to have slipped away from the Russian military became a sensation in Norway.)