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Beluga Whale Accused Of Being Russian Spy Seeking Refuge In Norway

by : Cameron Frew on : 10 May 2021 16:55
Beluga Whale Accused Of Being Russian Spy Seeking Refuge In Norwayonewhaleorg/Instagram/PA Images

Conservationists are seeking sanctuary for a beluga whale earlier accused of being a Russian spy. 

Hvaldimir, named after the Norwegian word for whale (hval) and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was first spotted in April 2019, equipped with a harness, camera mount and clips reading, ‘Equipment St. Petersburg.’

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Investigations into the mammal’s welfare and origins have been ongoing since his initial rescue, to no avail. Now, people are looking to create a sanctuary for him to feed and roam in safety.

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Jorgen Ree Wiig, a seafaring inspector who was among the first to see the whale, told BBC News: ‘I saw the whale, thinking this is really something. I knew this situation was quite unique.’

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While still unconfirmed, Norway’s domestic intelligence agency believes ‘the whale is likely to have been part of a Russian research programme.’

According to Viktor Baranets, a retired Russian colonel, beluga whales were being used for ‘tasks of civil information gathering’ rather than conducting overt military missions.

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Shortly after his rescue, Hvaldimir went to a nearby harbour in Hammerfest. After struggling to feed himself, the country’s fisheries directorate got involved to keep him well-fed.

In July 2019, he left the harbour and has remained a ‘free-swimming whale’ ever since. However, no more attention has really been paid towards him, with filmmaker Regina Crosby kicking off a campaign for a sanctuary.

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Now, the OneWhale charity is advocating for a fjord – a long, narrow waterway – to be sealed off just for Hvaldimir, dubbing it an ‘enormous, open-water marine wildlife reserve.’

The government has expressed interest in this, but progress is slow. For now, he continues to roam relatively free, only occasionally relying on the locals for support, who also have a tendency of pestering him upon seeing him in the harbour.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Norway, Russia, Vladimir Putin, whales

Credits

BBC News
  1. BBC News

    Hvaldimir: Seeking sanctuary for whale dubbed a Russian spy