Russia calls up huskies for military duty

Husky dogs on military training, Russia, 2019 Image copyright Russian Defence Ministry/YouTube
Image caption The dogs range in age from one to seven years

Russian soldiers are going back to using dog power for transport in the country's Arctic north.

A motor-rifle brigade of the Northern Fleet is training Siberian huskies to work with its reconnaissance scouts at the village of Alakurtti in Murmansk Region, according to the Murmansky Vestnik newspaper.

A breeding kennel has already been set up with ten of the dogs, which are used by the Chukchi people of eastern Siberia for pulling sleds.

The troops are being trained by military dog instructors to use pairs of huskies to tow one soldier on skis, or teams of four dogs to pull a sled with a scout armed with a machine-gun.

Image copyright Zvezda TV
Image caption Siberian huskies get on well with people

"They must feel like the brave conquerors of Alaska in a Jack London story, slicing through the snowy expanses on dog-sleds," the paper enthuses.

The soldiers are also learning how to train and care for the animals themselves.

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The current exercises are solely for familiarisation, but "will move to the practical stage very soon", according to the defence ministry's Zvezda TV channel.

The six-week training course should see man and dog working well together, but there have been some stumbles on the way, with soldiers falling in the snow, and dogs getting entangled in the equipment and trying to break free.

The military have no doubt about the usefulness of the huskies on snow, as "two dogs can significantly ease and speed up a scout with full Arctic kit and a weapon" - especially as "they can go where military vehicles cannot".

Despite the teething troubles, the Murmansky Vestnik reports that "no soldier has been bitten yet, although they do face endless licks".

Reporting by Howard Gethin and Martin Morgan

Image copyright Zvezda TV
Image caption The huskies are training with sports sleds rather than military issue

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