(NEW YORK) — Ukrainian officials are reportedly denying a Russian state news story that alleges three of its military-trained dolphins went AWOL during a training exercise in Crimea earlier this month.
Russia’s RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday that the rogue pod simply never returned from a training exercise and said an expert speculated the underwater mammals probably went in search of mates. The report cited Ukrainian media as the basis for the story, but also noted that Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denied the incident.
After the RIA Novosti story was picked up by international outlets, including several in the U.S., Ukrainian media reported that officials there said the story was “absolutely fabricated.” One Russian news report said that the document upon which the original stories were based was a low-quality forgery, as The Week pointed out.
That isn’t to say that some militaries do not use the adorable marine animals for life-and-death military matters. As ABC News has reported, the U.S. Navy has used bottle-nosed dolphins to detect mines and enemy divers.
In his memoir The Red Circle, former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb described killer dolphin-evasion as part of his diver training.
“They train these animals to track down enemy divers, outfitting them with a device strapped to onto the head that contains a compressed gas needle. Once the dolphin has tracked you down, it butts you; the needle shoots out and pokes you, creating an embolism. Within moments, you’re dead,” Webb wrote. “We could tell when those little b******s were approaching because we could hear their sonar clicking — but that didn’t make it any easier to escape them… [they’re] way too fast for us or any other human being to outrun them.”
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Oren Liebermann, CNN
Rafael Romo and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Roshni Majumdar and Deborah Bloom, CNN Newswire
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Gul Tuysuz, CNN