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Putin’s ‘spy whale’ caught looking for love on Russian surveillance mission

A beluga whale suspected of spying for Vladimir Putin has been spotted speeding across the ocean looking for love, boffins believe.

The mystery mammal first turned up in Norway in 2019 wearing a camera harness prompting fears it was a spook trained by the Russian navy.

Dubbed 'MIFish' by intelligence wags it has now suddenly reappeared off the coast of Sweden.

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Experts say to make the trek it must have travelled at an unnaturally high speed – suggesting the lonely whale is hunting a mate.

Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist with the OneWhale organisation, said it had moved "very quickly away from his natural environment".

"We don’t know why he has sped up so fast right now," he said.

"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.'"

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The beluga first made a splash when it was spotted sporting its manmade harness in Norway’s far northern region of Finnmark.

Marine biologists from the Norwegian directorate of fisheries removed the device which had been set up to house an action camera.

The words `Equipment St Petersburg' were discovered printed on the plastic clasps.

Directorate officials believe the whale had escaped an enclosure where it was being trained by the Russian navy.

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It appeared unusually accustomed to humans.

Norwegians nicknamed it Hvaldimir – a pun on hval, which means `whale', and nod to its alleged association with Russia.

Some western commentators branded it `Blow-feld' – after the James Bond villain – while Brit spooks dubbed it `MIFish' after the UK's foreign intelligence service MI6.

Since its discovery the whale has spent more than three years slowly moving down the top half of the Norwegian coastline.

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In recent months the mammal sped up as it headed for Sweden.

On Sunday it was observed in Hunnebostrand on the south-west coast.

Strand said the whale, believed to be 13 or 14-years-old, is `at an age where his hormones are very high'.

The closest population of belugas is located in the Svalbard archipelago which lies midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole.

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

Moscow never reacted to Norwegian speculation it could be a `Russian spy'.

The Barents Sea is a strategic geopolitical area where western and Russian submarine movements are monitored.

It is also the gateway to the Northern Sea Route which shortens maritime journeys between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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Strand said the whale’s health `seemed to be very good' in recent years and it had been foraging wild fish under Norway’s salmon farms.

But his organisation was concerned about its ability to find food in Sweden and has already observed some weight loss.

Beluga whales, which can grow to 20ft long and live for up to 60 years, generally inhabit the icy waters around Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.

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