Alleged Russian ‘spy’ whale reappears off Swedish coast

A Beluga wearing a harnesswho sparked speculation in 2019 that he was a Russian Navy-trained spy, has now been spotted off the coast of Sweden, a watchdog said on Monday.
The whale, thought to be between 13 and 14 years old, was first spotted in Norway’s far north, Finnmark, in April 2019. She was wearing a harness with the words “Equipment St. Petersburg” printed on it, suggesting that he had been trained by the Russian Navy.
Initially discovered in Finnmark, a region in the far north of Norway, the whale gradually traveled the Norwegian coasts over a period of more than three years. However, in recent months he has picked up his pace and completed the remaining stretch, reaching Sweden.
On Sunday, the whale was sighted at Hunnebostrand, located off the southwest coast of Sweden.
Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist with the organization OneWhale, told AFP it’s unclear why the whale suddenly accelerated its movements, especially as it now ventures far from its natural habitat. He suggested it could be driven by hormones, as the whale is at an age when hormone levels are high, or it could be driven by seeking a mate or companionship with other belugas. , because they are social creatures.
Strand pointed out that the nearest beluga whale population is in the Svalbard archipelago in the far north of Norway. Since arriving in Norway in April 2019, the whale has not encountered a single beluga.
Nicknamed “Hvaldimir” by Norwegians, which is a play on the Norwegian word for whale, “hval”, and a reference to its alleged connection to Russia, the beluga whale was found wearing a harness when it first appeared in the Norwegian Arctic. Marine biologists from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries removed the harness, which had a mount suitable for an action camera and the words “Equipment St. Petersburg” printed on the plastic clasps. Speculation arose that the whale had escaped from an enclosure and may have been dragged away by the Russian Navy, as it seemed comfortable around humans.
However, Moscow never officially responded to Norwegian speculation that the Beluga might be a “Russian spy”.
The Barents Sea, where the beluga was found, is of significant geopolitical importance as it is an area where Western and Russian underwater activity is monitored. In addition, it serves as a gateway to the Route du Nord, which shortens the sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Beluga whales, known to be up to six meters (20 feet) long and live 40 to 60 years, typically inhabit the frigid waters around Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.


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