THE BOMB-SNIFFING DOGS THAT PATROL RUSSIA’S POWER STATIONS

Fifteen hydroelectric plants provide power to the 3 million people of Dagestan, and each of them is a tempting target for terrorists in a Russian republic facing an Islamic insurgency. Their security is paramount, and it starts with dogs.

Photography: Yuri Ivashchenko | Author: Laura Mallonee

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Fifteen hydroelectric plants provide power to the 3 million people of Dagestan, and each of them is a tempting target for terrorists in a Russian republic facing an Islamic insurgency. Their security is paramount, and it starts with dogs.

Forty German and Belgian shepherds join guards in safeguarding the plants, sniffing out any sign of trouble. Photographer Yuri Ivashchenko spent five days at the Chirkey and Miatli power stations in 2014 shooting his series Dagestan Cynology.

His work for the hydroelectricity company Rushydro got off to an awkward start when a pregnant German shepherd escaped her cage and bit his leg1. “The handlers joked that it was a greeting,” Ivashchenko says. He followed the handlers and their dogs as they patrolled the plants and surrounding mountains, searched cars and trucks, and completed training exercises.

Ivaschenko came to appreciate the bond between handlers and their dogs, who trust each other with their lives. “It is a very intimate relationship,” he says.

A dog inspects a truck that has entered the vicinity of the Chirkey Dam.

A handler named Arsen poses with his dog Ergan.

A dog helps inspect an electric substation at the Chirkey Dam.

At the Miatli power station, a trainer and his dog descend toward the Soulak River.

A dog descends down a rocky slope outside the Miatli power station.

A handler and his dog patrol territory near the Chirkey Dam.

A handler guides his dog to inspect a truck.

A handler and his dog patrol the Miatli power station.

A dog inspects the territory around Soulak river between Miatli Dam and Chirkey Dam.

A handler named Omar poses with his dog Gris.

A dog inspects a power station in Dagestan.

A handler interacts with his Belgian shepherd at the Miatli power station in Dagestan.

A handler named Kutbudin poses with his dog Volf.

A handler's car sits parked beside a training device for the dogs.