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An angry walrus attacked — and reportedly sank — a Russian navy boat

In this file photo, two walruses are shown in Poolepynten, on Prins Karls Forland, Svalbard.
In this file photo, two walruses are shown in Poolepynten, on Prins Karls Forland, Svalbard. TEA KARVINEN / LEHTIKUVA

The Russian navy builds its ships to compete with the world’s mightiest countries, including the United States.

Perhaps it should be more worried about the animal kingdom’s mightiest tusks.

An angry mother walrus attacked and allegedly sank a Russian landing craft in the Arctic last week, according to the Russian Geographical Society (RGO), which had crew on board.

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The incident happened during a landing expedition involving the Altai, a rescue tugboat in Russia’s Northern Fleet, in the Cape Geller region of the north. The military and civilian crew are researching wildlife and tracking a century-old expedition’s journey through the Arctic.

The RGO says the landing crew spooked a mother walrus, causing her to turn on the crew in defence of her cubs.

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“The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader,” the RGO wrote in a web post translated from Russian. “All the landing participants safely reached the shore.”

The Altai, a rescue tugboat in Russia’s Northern Fleet, is shown in this file photo.
The Altai, a rescue tugboat in Russia’s Northern Fleet, is shown in this file photo. Northern Fleet

The Russian military downplayed the incident in a separate statement that made no mention of the sinking.

“During the landing at Cape Geller, a group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat,” the navy wrote in a statement. “Serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well co-ordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemen, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”

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The military also claimed that the boat is still operational.

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“At present, the Altai rescue tugboat, with participants in a joint expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society, continues to perform tasks in the Algeria,” it wrote. The RGO statement includes those exact same words at the bottom.

The Russian military has been known to downplay embarrassing incidents in the past.

In August, for example, the Russian military was extremely tight-lipped about a nuclear explosion in a small town near the Arctic Circle. The incident left five people dead, although those details didn’t emerge until weeks later.

READ MORE: Russia says radiation levels spiked after mysterious rocket test accident

The military and the RGO say no one was physically injured in the attack.

However, the Russian navy’s ego likely suffered a significant bruising.