Marine scientists in Norway have suggested that a whale spotted off the coast of the country could be being used by the Russian navy.
Fishermen, near the fishing village of Inga, reported on Friday that they had seen a white beluga whale wearing a harness near their boat.
Some reports also suggested a camera was attached to the harness.
"We were going to put out our nets when we saw a whale swimming between the boats," fisherman Joar Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “It came over to us, and as it approached, we saw that it had some sort of harness on it.”
The fisherman added that the whale seemed to be used to human contact.
"If this comes from Russia and there is great reason to believe it, then it is not Russian scientists, but rather the navy that has done this," says Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research.
Professor Audun Rikardsen from the University of Tromso’s Department of Marine Biology told NRK: “We know that in Russia they have had domestic whales in captivity and also that some of these have apparently released. Then they often seek out boats.”
Professor Rickardsen added that he had been in contact with Russian researchers who said they had not been involved.
“They tell me that most likely is the Russian Navy in Murmansk,” he added.
At the beginning of April, Russian officials said they would work towards freeing all orca and beluga whales from a notorious facility in the east of the country, after a visit by US-based marine mammal advocates.
Neartly 100 whales were discovered last year kept in small pens, and were believed to be being kept for sale to aquarium.