Vladimir Putin's order to release around 100 sea mammals from a 'whale jail' could lead to their mass annihilation in the wild, scientists have warned.
The beluga and orca whales are set to be released from the Primorsky region of Russia following a campaign backed by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
New footage shows the extent to which the creatures have been trained to be 'affectionate' ahead of their intended export to aquariums in China.
The Kremlin leader's spokesman said that Putin had already 'made the relevant order' and that he hoped 'the problem around the killer whales will be resolved in a very short time and that they will be released'.
The news comes after the FSB security service began laying charges for ill-treatment against companies controlling the cramped mammal jail and aiming to sell them.
Around 100 sea mammals are set to be released from a 'whale jail' (pictured) in the Primorsky region of Russia following a campaign backed by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio
But experts have warned that the animals, who were going to be sold to aquariums in China, may be too tame to survive in the wild and could be annihilated
The news comes after the FSB security service began laying charges for ill-treatment against companies controlling the cramped mammal jail and aiming to sell them
Leonardo DiCaprio, pictured in November, backed the campaign for the mammals to be released
Putin has also demanded the swift release of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales from their 'whale jail' on Russia's Pacific coast, according to reports, but there are now doubts here as to whether this will happen.
Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Primorsky region, said: 'Scientists emphasise that at the moment the release into the wild of caged animals is fraught with risks to their lives.'
Russia has 'no experience' of returning whales to the wild, he added.
The waters off Nakhodka in Primorsky region 'are not their natural habitat' and a release to the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk is both illegal under Russian law and 'extremely complex', he warned, apparently defying Putin, his mentor.
'Besides, their socialisation causes serious questions, whether they can join wild herds or not,' he said bluntly.
A scientific analysis he commissioned from Russian experts warned that the mammals are so used to hand feeding that release