Whales and dolphins may have been utilised by Vladimir Putin’s Russia as weapons in his fight against the West, based on a shadowy history of such practice in the past.
The news comes following reports about Hvaldimir, a young beluga whale found to have camera apparatus attached to him believed to have come from Russia.
A custom-built GoPro-carrying harness on the whale read "Equipment of St Petersburg" with experts telling CNN he had been trained – his over-friendly demeanour uncharacteristic for his species.
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According to theDaily Mailsome experts fear the whale could have been the product of a Russian spy programme.
Hvaldimir, first spotted swimming malnourished and alone near Norway in 2019, is suspected by Norwegian and rouge Russian experts to have possibly been part of a training programme by an organisation called the Murmansk Sea Biology Research Institute.
At the time of writing the Daily Star has been unable to verify these claims, however throughout history there is some evidence to suggest programmes have existed to utilise underwater mammals.
A Russian state-controlled TV channel did in 2017 admit that the military had been attempting to train sea mammals in a bid to strengthen Russia’s presence in the Arctic.
It said the programme had been explored to “assist deep water divers and, if necessary, kill any strangers who enter their territory”.
Western experts, the outlet says, think the lonesome fellow could be a legacy of the Cold War, with Russia alleged to have tried to recruit cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – as spies during those turbulent times.
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In 1976 CIA reports said efforts had been made by the Soviets to train bottlenose dolphins to place “packages” like tracking devices and explosives onto ships.
Boris Zhurid is understood to have trained and cared for the animals, claiming he’s taught them how to attack enemy divers and frogmen, but when the project ran out of money Russia was forced to sell them to Iran in 2000.
The operation, however, might have been turned around after a post appeared on a Russian government procurement site offering $21,000 for the delivery of five dolphins in perfect health. The success of this is unknown.
As well as Russia, other militaries including from the US and Ukraine, are understood to have looked into ways to use the mammals as guards, spies, trackers and even weapons.
How successful or progressed any of these programmes were remains unclear.
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