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Whale with a mysterious suit of armor can be Russian military ‘spy,’ experts say

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The Russian military may be an unusual new recruit – a white beluga whale that has been spotted in the waters of the Norwegian Arctic.

The whale was wearing a tight armor that seems to be of Russian origin, sparking concerns of the Norwegian officials and ask speculation that the animal escaped from a Russian military facility.

In a tweet, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, explained that the officials worked with a local fisherman to the harness from the whale’s body. Jørgen Ree Wiig of the board of Management says, “Equipment St. Petersburg” is written on the harness strap, which features a connection for an action camera.

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Fishermen in Arctic Norway reported that a tame white cetacean with a tight harness around to swimming last week, Ree Wiig said Monday. On Friday, fisherman, Market, Hesten, helped by Ree Wiig, jumped into the icy water, and remove the harness.

Norwegian fisherman Joar Hesten trying to draw a beluga whale swimming next to his boat for the Norwegian fishermen were able to remove the tight-fitting harness, from the north-Norwegian coast Friday 26 April 2019.
(J. van Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on Sea Surveillance Unit, via AP)

Ree Wiig said: “the people in the Norwegian army has shown great interest” in the harness.

Both Russia and the US have trained marine mammals for military use. The us Navy Marine Mammal Program, for example, “trains bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to detect, locate, mark and retrieve objects in the ports, in the coastal areas and in the depth in the open sea.”

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In 2013, a US Navy dolphin has found a 130 year-old torpedo off the coast of San Diego, according to LiveScience.

A beluga whale is seen as it swims next to a fishing boat for the Norwegian fishermen away from the tight harness, swim off the north Norwegian coast Friday 26 April 2019.
(J. van Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on Sea Surveillance Unit, via AP)

Citing a 2017 report from TV Zvedza, which is owned by the Russian ministry of defence, the Guardian reports that the Russian military trained beluga whales, seals and bottlenose dolphins in the Arctic waters.

Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the arctic University of Norway, in Tromsoe, northern Norway, is of the opinion that “it is very likely that the Russian Navy in Murmansk” is involved. Russia has large military facilities in and around Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula in the extreme north-west of Russia.

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Fox News has reached out to the Russian government with a request for comments.

Norwegian Jørgen Ree Wiig in the possession of the whale harness after it is removed from a beluga-whales from the north-Norwegian coast Friday 26 April 2019.
(J. van Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on Sea Surveillance Unit, via AP)

Rikardsen said that he had checked with scientists in Russia and Norway, and said they have no notification of any program or experiments with beluga whales.

“This is a tame animal that is used to get food served so that is the reason why it has contacts with the fishermen,” he said. “The question now is whether it can survive by finding food by themselves. We have seen cases where other whales in Russian captivity doing fine.”

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Hesten told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the whale began to rub himself against his boat when he first spotted.

A beluga whale is seen as it swims next to a fishing boat for the Norwegian fishermen away from the tight harness, swim off the north Norwegian coast Friday 26 April 2019.
(J. van Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on Sea Surveillance Unit, via AP)

Defence expert H. I. Sutton tweeted that the whale may be trained to operate under the ice cap of the north Pole.

In a blog post, H. I. Sutton notes that, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy main dolphin unit in Kazachya Bukhta, near Sevastopol on the Crimea in the new independent Ukraine and became part of the Ukrainian Navy. “Like many units, the lapse into non-operational status and was used as a tourist attraction,” the researcher explains. “Recently was re-established as an operational unit, but then captured by Russia during the annexation of the Crimea in 2014.”

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Jørgen Ree Wiig tries to reach the harness attached to a beluga whale for the Norwegian fishermen were able to remove the tight-fitting harness, from the north-Norwegian coast Friday 26 April 2019.
(J. van Ree Wiig/Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries on Sea Surveillance Unit, via AP)

The US Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions to support its operations since 1959. “In the early years of the program, more than a dozen different species of marine mammals, but also sharks, rays, sea turtles and seabirds were tested, and their sensory and physical capabilities to explore,” explains on her website. The Navy decided to bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions, with an indication of their trainability and adaptability to a wide range of the marine environment.”

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Russia recently launched a high-profile addition to the conventional military arsenal if given the go-ahead for the new Belgorod submarine, which is designed for the transport of devastating underwater nuclear drones.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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