Passport

Meet Russia's Newest Recruits: Ukraine's Combat Dolphins

The Ukrainian military is promising to one day reclaim its former bases in Crimea, but one unit has been lost forever: Ukraine's combat dolphins, who are now swimming for Russia.

The dolphins, stationed in a Ukrainian navy oceanarium in Sevastopol, will now attack enemy scuba divers, attach buoys to sea-floor mines, and patrol open waters at the behest of Moscow, according to Russian news service RIA Novosti. The program had been set to shut down, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has apparently given Sevastopol's combat dolphins another crack at navy life. "Our experts have developed new devices, which convert the detection of objects by the dolphins' underwater sonar to a signal on an operator's monitor," an oceanarium employee told the news service in an overt attempt to curry favor with his new bosses. "But the Ukrainian navy lacked the funds for such know-how, and some projects had to be shuttered."

Ukraine's dolphin program dates back to the 1960s, right around the time the United States launched a similar effort to enlist them in the fight against the Soviet Union. Though less is known about their Ukrainian counterparts, America's dolphins guarded military boats against enemy scuba divers in Vietnam, though the Navy denied rumors at the time that the dolphins had also been trained to kill Viet Cong divers. In the late 1980s, the United States used dolphins to help protect its ships in the Persian Gulf, where an animal named Skippy died of bacterial infection while serving his country.

At the conclusion of the Cold War, both Ukraine and the United States thinned their ranks of combat dolphins. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian combat dolphins were re-purposed for civilian programs, namely to provide therapy to autistic and emotionally disturbed children.

The Ukrainian Navy re-launched the combat training in 2011, though the program was slated to be shut down in April. Thanks to Mother Russia, though, the dolphins will keep fighting.

U.S. Navy/Getty Images

Passport

The Kremlin’s Favorite Right-Wing Radical Dies in Police Shootout

Ukrainian right-winger Oleksandr Muzychko was a larger-than-life figure who was videotaped carrying a machine gun into a government building and grabbing a prosecutor by the collar while he screamed profanities into the official's face.  

On Monday night, Muzychko's life came to a suitably Hollywood-style end when he was killed by police in Rivne, a city in western Ukraine. The cops had tried to arrest Muzychko -- also known by his nom-de-guerre, "Sashko Bily" -- when he tried to evade capture by jumping through a window clad in an Oakland Raiders jacket. Muzychko fired on police and died in the ensuing shootout.

"At the moment of arrest, at shouts of "Stop! Police!", Muzychko fled, jumping through a window, and opened fire," Volodymyr Yevdokimov, Ukraine's first deputy interior minister, said during a press conference in Kiev. The police, he said, then returned fire and killed Muzychko, a leader of the radical right-wing group Pravy Sektor, or "Right Sector."

   

Prior to his death, Muzychko had featured heavily in Kremlin attempts to portray the protest movement that toppled the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as a gang of fascists. Right Sector, the group he helped lead, played a key role in the protests by supplying many of the footsoldiers who battled police in the streets of Kiev. Muzychko became Moscow's favorite thug, and the Kremlin-backed news service RT happily chronicled the Ukrainian bully's misdeeds.

That Muzychko met his death in a violent showdown with police is a fitting death for a man who carefully cultivated a reputation for using force to settle disputes and intimidate his opponents. In February, Muzychko attempted to strong-arm a local prosecutor after hearing a murder investigation was proceeding slowly.  "Shut the fuck up, you bitch! Your fucking time is over," Muzychko told the prosecutor, holding him by his tie the entire time. The episode was captured on video:   

The same month, Muzychko showed up at the Rivne regional parliament brandishing a machine gun and demanding that the assembled politicians help the families of anti-government protesters killed in clashes with riot police. "Who wants to take away my machine-gun? Who wants to take away my gun? Who wants to take away my knives? I dare you!" Again, the episode was captured on video: 


In death, as in life, Muzychko is proving deeply controversial. According to independent lawmaker Oleksander Doniy, the right-wing extremist was in fact assassinated.  "Two vehicles cut off his car. He was dragged out and put in one of them," Dony claimed in a post on Facebook. "Then he was thrown on the ground, hands cuffed behind his back, two shots to the heart." Local media outlets, meanwhile, report that some residents of Rivne believe Muzychko was killed by a "Russian subversive group."

Earlier this month, Muzychko released a YouTube video in which he accused Ukrainian authorities of plotting to kill or capture him and hand him over to Russia, where he is wanted for allegedly killing and torturing some 20 Russian soldiers while fighting alongside Chechen rebels in the mid-1990s. "I am not afraid of death," he says in the video, warning that his "friends, brothers, patriots" would take up his cause.

Sure enough, fellow members of Pravy Sektor have already pledged to avenge their leader. "We will take revenge on [acting Interior Minister] Arsen Avakov for the death of our brother," said Roman Koval, a Pravy Sektor coordinator for the Rivne region. "The shooting of Sashko Bily is an assassination ordered by the minister."

EPA/PETRO HROMYH