Russian ‘Spy Whale’ That Wore GoPro Camera Spotted in Sweden

An alleged former Russian spy whale — who first appeared four years ago with a GoPro camera mount and clips bearing the inscription “Equipment of St Petersburg” — has been spotted again off the coast of Sweden.

The beluga whale, known locally as Hvaldimir, was first spotted in Norway in April 2019, prompting speculation it was a spy trained by the Russian army.

The tame beluga whale approached Norwegian boats near the island of Ingoya — which is around 258 miles from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based.

Hvaldimir had been wearing a GoPro camera and a harness labeled “Equipment St. Petersburg.” The discovery led to an investigation by Norway’s domestic intelligence agency who reportedly concluded that the whale was likely trained by Russia for intelligence purposes.

Russia and the U.S. are among a small number of countries that have military training programs incorporating aquatic mammals.

The lone Beluga whale — whose name is a portmanteau of the Norwegian word for whale (hval) and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first name — has since spent the last few years traveling further south down the coast of Norway.

OneWhale, an organization dedicated to tracking Hvaldimir, reported that the whale has sped up his movements out of Norwegian waters in recent months.

And on Sunday, Hvaldimir was observed in Hunnebostrand, off Sweden’s south-western coast.

‘It Could Be Loneliness’

Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist with the OneWhale organisation, says it is unclear and puzzling as to why Hvaldimir has been moving away so quickly from his natural environment.

“We don’t know why he has sped up so fast right now,” Strand says.

“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness, as belugas are a very social species — it could be that he’s searching for other beluga whales.”

Hvaldimir is not believed to have seen a single other beluga whale since arriving in Norway four years ago.

According to the BBC, Russia has never officially addressed the allegations that Hvaldimir was trained by the Russian army. It has previously denied the existence of any programmes seeking to train sea mammals as spies.

Although in 2019, Russian reserve colonel, Colonel Viktor Baranets said: “If we were using this animal for spying, do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘Please call this number’?”