Beluga whale wearing Russian harness swims to Sweden: Norwegian officials

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Norwegian authorities said Tuesday that a beluga whale, which was first spotted in Arctic Norway four years ago with an apparent Russian-made harness and alleged to have come from a Russian military facility, has been seen off Sweden’s coast nearly 2,000 kilometers (around 1,250 miles) to the south.

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“During the last few weeks, it has moved quickly and swam several hundred kilometers” before reaching waters off Sweden’s west coast, Olav Lekve of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said.

He said it has been reported off Lysekill, which sits north of Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city. There was no immediate comment from Swedish authorities.

Last week, the white mammal was spotted in the inner Oslo fjord where the directorate urged people to avoid contact with the animal to ensure its safety and wellbeing. Whale-watchers in Norway have nicknamed it Hvaldimir, combining the Norwegian word for whale - hval - and the Russian first name Vladimir.

The directory pointed out that there was a risk of injury for Hvaldimir when more recreational boats than usual gathered in the fjord as people sought to catch a glimpse of a huge US aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, which briefly visited the Norwegian capital.

“We have not received any reports from the inner Oslo fjord that give cause for concern,” Lekve said in an email to The Associated Press.

As to its origins, Norwegian authorities “don’t want to speculate on it either,” Lekve said.

When in Norwegian waters, the beluga whale was considered a protected wild marine mammal, he said, adding that authorities in Norway have “rejected all inquiries and plans to capture the whale.”

In 2019, the enigmatic whale was found frolicking in a frigid harbor near Norway’s northernmost point where it became a local attraction for locals. The whale is so comfortable with people that it swims to the dock and retrieves plastic rings thrown into the sea.

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