It may be too late for Ukraine to recover the territory lost to Russia’s forcible annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, but there’s one possession that Kiev hasn’t given up on just yet. In addition to miles of beautiful coastline, potentially enormous offshore oil reserves, and an irksome infrastructural nightmare, the Russian Federation also inherited a number of combat dolphins attached to Ukraine’s naval service. That’s right, combat dolphins. And now Ukraine wants them back. Unlike their human counterparts, Ukraine says, the cetacean contingent of its navy was not given the choice of defecting to Russia or remaining loyal to Kiev. But according to sources, there’s little chance they will be returned; apparently, Russia already has big plans for the creatures’ future involvement in naval operations.
It will take some retraining though. Ukraine’s program was an offshoot of an old Soviet program that trained dolphins to locate mines, mark underwater obstacles, and even kill enemy frogmen with special knives strapped to their backs. But for many years now, the dolphins have been used primarily in therapy swimming sessions for autistic and disabled children. Indeed in 2000, the BBC even reported that many of the dolphins had been sold to Iran (along with sea lions, seals, walruses, and a beluga whale). The combat-oriented program, revived by the Ukrainian navy in 2012, was one of just two in the world. The other is based in San Diego.