Beluga whale
Known locally as Hvaldimir, the whale gained attention when it was initially discovered wearing a Russian harness in Norway's waters back in 2019. [Representational image] Kevin Schafer/Gettyimages

According to a marine tracking organization, a beluga whale believed to be an alleged former Russian spy has been sighted off the coast of Sweden.

Known locally as Hvaldimir, the whale gained attention when it was initially discovered wearing a Russian harness in Norway's waters back in 2019.

Over the years, Hvaldimir has been gradually moving southward, but in recent months, his movements have noticeably accelerated as he ventures out of Norwegian waters.

The organization, OneWhale, has stated that the motive behind the whale's sudden increase in speed remains uncertain.

Four years ago, a friendly beluga whale approached Norwegian boats near Ingoya Island, which is located approximately 415km (258 miles) away from Murmansk, the base of Russia's Northern Fleet.

This remarkable encounter revealed that the whale was adorned with a harness that featured a mount for a GoPro camera and clips inscribed with the words "Equipment of St. Petersburg."

Following the discovery, Norway's domestic intelligence agency launched an investigation into the matter and subsequently informed the BBC that the beluga whale was likely trained by the Russian military.

Consequently, the whale has acquired the local moniker "Hvaldimir," combining the Norwegian word for whale ("hval") and the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite these claims, Russia has never officially addressed the allegation that Hvaldimir was trained by its military.

The country has consistently denied the existence of any programs involving the training of sea mammals for espionage purposes, BBC reported.

In 2019, Colonel Viktor Baranets, a Russian reserve colonel, questioned the notion of using the animal for spying, suggesting that if it were the case, they would not attach a mobile phone number with a message instructing people to call it.

Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist associated with OneWhale, has pointed out that there could be various reasons behind the recent changes in Hvaldimir's movements, leaving the exact cause open to speculation.

"We don't know why he has sped up so fast right now," especially since he is moving "very quickly away from his natural environment", he told AFP news agency.

According to marine biologist Sebastian Strand from OneWhale, there are two potential reasons for the recent behavioral changes observed in Hvaldimir, the beluga whale.

One possibility is that his altered behavior is driven by high hormone levels, indicating a search for a mate.

Another explanation could be related to loneliness, as belugas are highly social creatures, and Hvaldimir might be seeking companionship with other beluga whales.

Beluga whales typically inhabit the icy Arctic waters near Greenland, Russia, Alaska, and northern Norway. Some of them engage in migration during the summer months.

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