Russia frees US Navy veteran after nearly a year in detention

(CNN) — A US Navy veteran who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year has been released from Russian custody. this Thursdayhis family’s spokesman told CNN, after months of negotiations led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Taylor Dudley, 35, originally from Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol in April 2022 after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave located between Poland and Lithuania. He was in Poland to attend a music festival, and it is not clear why he crossed the border.

Dudley’s detention, which the US government had not deemed “unfair” or based on arbitrary or discriminatory grounds, had not been widely publicized before Thursday because his family wanted negotiations for his release kept private.

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a nonprofit organization founded by Richardson, led the negotiations, Jonathan Franks, a family spokesman, told CNN. The former governor and diplomat has long worked to free Americans detained abroad, and his center played a role in freeing Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who was wrongfully detained in Russia last summer.

The Steve Menzies Global Foundation and the US embassy also helped secure Dudley’s release, according to the spokesman.

“Russian authorities today released US citizen Taylor Dudley, a 35-year-old Navy veteran, across the Polish border, thanks to Governor Bill Richardson, his team and a representative from the US Embassy in Warsaw. The The Richardson Center has worked diligently and discreetly for over six months on this release, with significant help from the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, Hostage US and the James Foley Foundation. The family will be forever grateful for the work of all three.”

“The last 9 months have been difficult for the family and they ask the media to respect their privacy and give them the space they need to welcome Taylor home.”

In a separate statement to CNN, Richardson said Dudley had been released at the Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border crossing between Russia and Poland on Thursday after nearly a year of negotiations. He also acknowledged the involvement of the State Department and the US embassies in Moscow and Warsaw in helping to secure Dudley’s release.

“After six months of hard work, it’s great to see that Taylor Dudley has been released,” Richardson told CNN by phone on Thursday. “We worked hard in Moscow and Kaliningrad, and we first raised it during our meetings with Russian officials about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.”

Several US citizens remain in custody in Russia, including former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been designated as wrongfully detained. He was arrested in Russia in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. In 2022, the United States proposed trading Whelan and American basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout, but Russia he only agreed to release Griner.

With information from Jennifer Hansler.

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