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29 Apr, 2019 15:02

Well done, Comrade Belugov! Did ‘Russian Navy whale’ trick Norwegians into seizing spy harness?

Well done, Comrade Belugov! Did ‘Russian Navy whale’ trick Norwegians into seizing spy harness?

A friendly beluga whale wearing a harness was spotted by Norwegian fishermen and freed from its garment. Now the country’s media are speculating that the marine animal must have been working for the Russian Navy.

The Arctic whale was first sighted last Thursday by a group of fishermen off the coast of Ingoya Island in Norway’s north. It was quite friendly and willing to play with humans, but what was peculiar about it was the harness it was wearing, public broadcaster NRK reported.

The fishermen took pictures of the animal and reported their find to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, which is tasked with freeing whales from ropes, fishnets and other trash in which they may get tangled. The authorities sent a crew to the location and encountered the same whale. They tried to take the harness off, but the beluga would not allow them, so they had to send in a swimmer in a warm suit to relieve the mammal of the attire.

The harness had an attachment point for a GoPro camera and carried a note: “Equipment of St. Petersburg” in English, according to the tabloid Verdens Gang. It’s not clear where the beluga came from, but the general speculation in the Norwegian media is that it must have escaped from captivity at a Russian military facility. Because who else would make a cetacean wear a GoPro camera?

Russia, of course, has a long record of training aquatic mammals for military missions, with first experiments in this area dating back to World War I. Belugas, for example, were trained at a facility of the Pacific Fleet in Russia’s Far East to counter enemy combat swimmers and search for sunken torpedoes until the late 1990s.

More recently, a couple of trained belugas were deployed in Sochi harbor as part of the security protocol in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games hosted by the southern Russian city. Or at least that’s what the urban legend claims – belugas were spotted near Sochi for several years after the games were over and may be from the local aquarium, according to some accounts.

However, that doesn’t mean that the “tame and safe” whale encountered by the Norwegians is not a trained assassin on a mission from the Kremlin to undermine the NATO-founding ally. This may have all been a trick to sneak the spy rig right into the heart of the Norwegian military or to study top-secret sources and methods. There is really no guarantee that ‘Comrade Belugov’ is still swimming joyfully around Ingoya, rather than reporting his success to his superiors somewhere on a mini-submarine near Copenhagen!

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