The Norwegian government is warning residents to stay away from a friendly whale that experts believe is in fact a Russian “spy.”
The beluga whale, called Hvaldimir, was first encountered in 2019 after it began rubbing its body against a fishing boat. At the time, he was wearing a specially made harness with mounts for an underwater camera that had “Equipment St. Petersburg” spelled on it.
Experts and marine biologists believe the friendly whale has clearly gathered information, most likely by the Russian Navy.
Hvaldimir was spotted once again in recent days in the region of Inner Oslofjord. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, the whale has been following boats.
However, the animal, who is used to being around people, “suffered minor injuries, primarily from contact with boats,” the agency added. The director of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, Frank Bakke-Jensen, is urging people to avoid contact with the animal.
“We especially encourage people in boats to keep a good distance to avoid the whale being injured or, in the worst case, killed by boat traffic,” said Bakke-Jensen.
The Russian Navy has been known to train and use dolphins and other marine mammals such as whales and seals, for military purposes. The animals are trained to locate and retrieve objects or protect harbors against enemy divers.
Hvaldimir—whose name is a combination of the Norwegian word for whale and Russian President Vladimir Putin—might be a Russian spy but authorities have said that they are not going to capture the animal. However, his movements will be monitored by marine officials.
“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 barriers,” Bakke-Jensen said.