A white whale wearing a harness is seen off the coast of northern Norway on Monday. Reuters
Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries says "Equipment St. Petersburg" is written on the harness strap, which features a mount for an action camera.
He said on Monday fishermen in Arctic Norway last week reported the tame white cetacean with a tight harness swimming around. On Friday, fisherman Joar Hesten, aided by the Ree Wiig, jumped into the frigid water to remove the harness.
Ree Wiig said "people in Norway's military have shown great interest" in the harness.
Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoe, northern Norway, believes "it is most likely that Russian Navy in Murmansk" is involved. Russia has major military facilities in and around Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, in the far northwest of Russia.
It wasn't immediately clear what the mammal was being trained for, or whether it was supposed to be part of any Russian military activity in the region.
Rikardsen said he had checked with scholars in Russia and Norway and said they have not reported any program or experiments using beluga whales.
"This is a tame animal that is used to get food served so that is why it has made contacts with the fishermen," he said. "The question is now whether it can survive by finding food by itself. We have seen cases where other whales that have been in Russian captivity doing fine."
Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the whale began to rub itself again his boat when he first spotted it.
Russia does not have a history of using whales for military purposes but the Soviet Union had a full-fledged training program for dolphins.
The Soviet Union used a base in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula during the Cold War to train the mammals for military purposes such as searching for mines or other objects and planting explosives. The facility in Crimea was closed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, though unnamed reports shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea indicated that it had reopened.
The Russian Defence Ministry published a public tender in 2016 to purchase five dolphins for a training program. The tender did not explain what tasks the dolphins were supposed to perform, but indicated they were supposed to have good teeth. It was taken offline shortly after publication.
NATIONS: Russia sent home nearly two-thirds of some 30,000 North Koreans working there during 2018 and China repatriated more than half, but did not specify a figure, according to unpublished reports by Moscow and Beijing to the United Nations Security Council.
The tense conversation came after Russia sent two planes reportedly carrying around 100 soldiers and 35 tons of military equipment to Venezuela's main airport outside Caracas on Saturday.
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will meet with Chinese, Russian and European Union diplomats on Afghanistan on Thursday as he tries to forge a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to America’s longest war.
The United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, officials told Reuters, in what would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
The US Navy reiterated on Wednesday that a limpet mine was responsible for the explosion on the vessel Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers that came under suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.
President Donald Trump jabbed at the press and poked the political establishment he ran against in 2016 as he kicked off his reelection campaign with a grievance-filled rally focused more on settling scores than laying out his agenda for a possible second term.
June 20, World Refugee Day, is an annual reminder of pressing questions dealing with the reality and future of the 68 million people who have fled their homes to escape war, prosecution or terror. Every minute of every day, the staggering number continues to grow, says Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.