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Russia deploys combat dolphins to protect Sevastopol harbor after Ukrainian attacks, Naval News reports

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Following multiple drone attacks on occupied Sevastopol, Russia has strengthened the defense of the city and its harbor with combat “anti-diver” dolphins and other physical barriers, according to a report by Naval News.

The strengthened defenses are primarily aimed at protecting the area against Ukrainian maritime drones, and are “a visible sign of Russia's more defensive posture in Crimea,” the publication notes.

According to the article, the entrance to the port of Sevastopol is now protected by at least six rows of physical barriers in addition to patrol boats, helicopter patrols, combat “anti-diver” dolphins, and artillery systems.

Independent defense analyst Benjamin Pittet told the publication that the new defenses are part of a broader effort to fortify Crimea:

“Russian ships have been patrolling more often near the Kerch Strait these past weeks. On the ground, they’ve been setting up a large amount of trenches around key locations. Air wise, they are becoming more aggressive regarding NATO intelligence missions.”

According to Pittet, there are now multiple batteries of air defense systems located around Sevastopol: “They have been moving air defenses around for months now, they are not static, they keep moving. In the city, but also around Belbek airbase.”

An overview of satellite images shows that the pontoon barges began to be deployed between April 3 and April 9, and their number has increased since then. They are now located on both sides of the entrance to the harbor. The article stresses that the floating barriers at the harbor entrance originally served to contain oil spills and to prevent attacks with surface vessels, although the idea might have seemed “old-fashioned and unlikely” at the beginning of the invasion. The pre-existing barrier was occasionally closed to prevent the entry of unauthorized boats.

A diagram of the defenses cited by Naval News pointed to the presence of dolphin enclosures, which analysts say are supposed to combat enemy combat divers.

In October 2022, Ukraine conducted a naval drone attack on Sevastopol. Several ships were hit, none were seriously damaged – the attack, however, highlighted the ineffectiveness of Russia’s old defenses. Additional defenses were installed in November, both at the entrance to the harbor and at various locations inside the port.

Sevastopol is the main naval base of the Russian fleet in Crimea. Despite efforts to relocate forces and assets to other bases, Russia’s main warships remain in Sevastopol, making the port a key target for Ukraine, especially in the context of a planned counterattack, Naval News notes.

Governor of annexed Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev reported that the city was attacked by surface drones on the night of April 24. A previous large-scale attack took place on the night of March 22 – videos were published online showing explosions in Sevastopol, as well as a fire in the harbor.

The Ukrainian army may launch a counteroffensive aimed at cutting off Russia's land communication with the Crimean peninsula in May, according to a report by German publication Bild citing a high-ranking NATO official.

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