Taylor Dudley: US Navy veteran released from Russian custody

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A US Navy veteran who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year was released from Russian custody on Thursday, his family spokesman told CNN, after months of negotiations led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. .

Taylor Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was stopped by Russian border patrol police in April 2022 after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave that is Moscow-ruled territory between Poland and Lithuania. He was in Poland attending a music festival and it’s unclear why he crossed the border.

Dudley’s detention – which the US government did not deem “unfair” or based on arbitrary and discriminatory motives – was not widely publicized before Thursday because his family wanted negotiations for his release to remain private.

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

No trades were made on the US side for Dudley, said Mickey Bergman, the center’s vice president and executive chairman.

The Steve Menzies Global Foundation and the US Embassy also helped secure Dudley’s release, Franks said.

“Earlier today, Russian authorities released U.S. citizen Taylor Dudley, a 35-year Navy veteran, across the Polish border to Governor Bill Richardson, his staff and a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, a release that the Richardson Center has worked. diligently and discreetly for more than 6 months with significant assistance from the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, Hostage US and the James Foley Foundation. The family will be forever grateful for their work.”

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

In a separate statement to CNN, Richardson said Dudley was released at the Russia-Poland Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border 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 intensive work, it’s great to see this Taylor Dudley release come to fruition,” Richardson told CNN by phone Thursday. “We worked hard in Moscow and Kaliningrad and raised it for the first time during our meetings with Russian officials about Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.”

US citizens Griner and Reed have since been released, but Whelan is still in Russian custody. Richardson said he and his team were still “moving forward” in negotiations with Russia to secure Whelan’s release.

“There are many quiet Americans who also deserve freedom,” Richardson said. “In other words, there are many around the world who have no fame but still deserve America’s support.”

US-Russia relations are at an all-time low amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine and US sanctions on the Kremlin.

Several US citizens remain in detention in Russia, including Whelan, a former US Marine who was found to be wrongfully detained. He was arrested in Russia in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Last year, the US proposed exchanging Whelan and Griner, an American basketball star, in a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout, but Russia only agreed to release Griner.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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