Norway warns residents to stay away from Russian ‘spy’ whale
There’s something fishy about this whale.
Norwegian government officials have warned residents to steer clear of a friendly beluga whale that experts say may be a Russian “spy” swimming along the country’s coast.
The adorable sea creature, nicknamed Hvaldimir, was first spotted in 2019 wearing a ‘St. Petersburg’ branded harness with mounts for an underwater camera – leading experts to believe he had been trained by the Russian Navy.
The suspected slippery secret agent reappeared recently in the densely populated area of Inner Oslofjord, where he followed boats and caused a stir with people on board, the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate warned on Wednesday.
Agency director Frank Bakke-Jensen urged locals to “avoid contact” with Hvaldimir for the animal’s safety, even though he is “tame and used to being around people”.
“We particularly encourage people on the boats to keep a good distance to prevent the whale from being injured or, in the worst case, killed by boat traffic,” Bakke-Jensen said.
The aquatic mammal “sustained minor injuries, primarily from contact with boats”, and the “risk of the whale being injured due to human contact has become significantly greater”, the agency said in a statement. communicated.
In recent weeks, the white whale has been searching for food at farms, “where it has been able to catch fish grazing with surplus food,” he added.
Hvaldimir – whose cheeky nickname is a combination of the Norwegian word for whale and Russian President Vladimir Putin – will not be captured by authorities despite his possible ties to the country.
“We have always communicated that the whale in question is a free-living animal and we see no reason to capture it and put it behind fences,” Bakke-Jensen said.
His movements, however, will be monitored by Navy officials.
The whale was first discovered by fisherman Joar Hesten in northeast Finnmark County in 2019 after the mammal began rubbing its body against a boat.
At the time, marine biologists and other experts told CNN the creature was clearly a trained animal from Russia, with one of its harness clips reading “Equipment St. Petersburg” – fueling the theory that the fish could be a mole.
The Russian Navy is “known for training beluga whales to conduct military operations,” Joergen Ree Wiig, a marine biologist at the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, said in April 2019.
Whales trained by the Russian military are usually tasked with “guarding naval bases, assisting divers [and] find lost material,” but can be used for other purposes, he said.