SpaceWeather.com is willing to take an extra step with the statement
Circumstantial evidence is mounting that the phenomenon was caused by a malfunctioning rocket, possibly an ICBM launched from a Russian submarine. A Navtex no-fly alert was issued for the White Sea on Dec. 9th, and photographers appear to have recorded the initial boost phase of a launch below the spiral.
Or maybe it was a Chinese attempt at putting a a military reconnaissance satellite in orbit.
A Chinese remote sensing mission, believed to be a military reconnaissance satellite, lifted off from a desert launch pad on a Long March rocket on Wednesday, state media reported.
The Long March 2D rocket blasted off at 0842 GMT (3:42 a.m. EST), or during the afternoon at the Jiuquan launching base near the border of northern China’s Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces.
The 135-foot-tall booster’s two stages, fueled by hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, guided the Yaogan 7 payload into a sun-synchronous orbit about 400 miles high, according to public tracking data.
Russian and Norwegian news reports gave strong support to the missile hypothesis. The Infox.ru news site and Norway’s Barents Observer referred to Russian advisories about missile test launches that were to take place around the time of the sighting.
“The missile was most likely yet another failed test launch of a Bulava missile from the Typhoon submarine Dmitry Donskoy in the White Sea area,” the Barents Observer said. A similar phenomenon was spotted a month ago, but without the spectacular spiral.