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Report: Ukraine military dolphins to switch nationalities, join Russian navy

By Faith Karimi, CNN
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
Dolphins can detect sounds and objects in murky waters that human beings can't.
Dolphins can detect sounds and objects in murky waters that human beings can't.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia plans to take custody of Ukraine's combat dolphins, news agency reports
  • Dolphins are a crucial part of open-water security
  • From a military perspective, they're effective at highlighting dangers on the sea floor

(CNN) -- Just when you thought this divorce couldn't get any messier.

Weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region, it plans to take custody of dolphins in the nation as well.

Not just any dolphins. These highly trained military mammals detect risks such as sea mines or enemy scuba divers trying to slip through. Sea mines are sophisticated weapons that can sink ships and other watercraft.

"The combat dolphin program in the Crimean city of Sevastopol will be preserved and redirected toward the interests of the Russian navy," state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

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Dolphins are a crucial part of open-water security. They detect sounds and objects in murky waters that human beings can't, making them uniquely effective at highlighting dangers on the sea floor.

Harnessing the military power of animal intelligence

Ukraine was using outdated military equipment for the dolphin program and planned to disband it next month, RIA Novosti said.

The Ukraine Defense Ministry told CNN that the nation has an ocean dolphin facility, but declined to provide details, saying they're classified.

The dolphin program dates to the 1960s, when Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union, but was handed over to Kiev after independence.

The U.S. Navy in San Diego also trains dolphins and sea lions to help protect its assets and find dangerous objects underwater.

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have escalated since Russia reclaimed the Crimea region after a referendum this month that overwhelmingly supported the annexation. The United States and its allies have pledged to isolate Russia for its actions.

Ukraine also has combat sea lions that operate under the same base. It's unclear whether they'll be barking allegiances to Moscow or Kiev.

READ: Funeral for 'Robin Hood' draws Ukraine nationalists -- paramilitary to pensioner

READ: Can Obama save the day?

CNN's Lisa Emmanuel and Victoria Butenko contributed to this report.

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