Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Ukraine says military dolphins captured by Russia went on hunger strike

Russia captured the dolphins in 2014 and says the trained mammals refused interact with coaches or eat

Thu 17 May 2018 19.10 BSTFirst published on Thu 17 May 2018 06.00 BST

Ukraine is home to some of the more adventurous military blue-sky thinking, mostly hangovers from the Soviet era. As well as a 160-metre high, 500-metre long radar that was supposed to be able to warn of nuclear attack, it also has a secret programme that trains sea mammals to carry out military tasks. Ukraine has a dolphin army at the Crimean military dolphin centre, trained and ready for deployment.

Or at least it did, but after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the dolphins were captured. Ukraine demanded their return, but Russian forces refused. Some believed the Russians were planning to retrain the dolphins as Russian soldiers, with a source telling Russian agency RIA Novosti that engineers were “developing new aquarium technologies for new programmes to more efficiently use dolphins underwater”.

Four years later and it seems little has come of these supposed Russian plans and most of the dolphins have died. But this week Boris Babin, the Ukrainian government’s representative in Crimea, claimed that they did so defending their country. He said that the dolphins died “patriotically”, refusing to follow orders or eat food provided by the “Russian invaders” and that the hunger strike led to their eventual death.

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