First on CNN: US Navy veteran released by Russia after nearly a year in custody
A U.S. Navy veteran held in Russia for nearly a year was released from Russian custody on Thursday, a spokesman for his family told CNN, after months of negotiations led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Taylor Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol in April 2022 after crossing from Poland through the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania. He was in Poland to attend a music festival and why he crossed the border is not known.
Dudley’s detention — which the U.S. government does not consider “unreasonable” or based on arbitrary or discriminatory reasons — was not widely publicized before Thursday because his family wanted to keep negotiations for his release 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 role in the release of Trevor Reed, a U.S. citizen and former Marine who was wrongfully detained in Russia last summer.
The spokesperson said the Steve Menzies Global Foundation and the US Embassy also helped secure Dudley’s release.
“Russian authorities today freed 35-year-old Marine Taylor Dudley, a US citizen, on the Polish border, thanks to Governor Bill Richardson, his team and the representative of the US Embassy in Warsaw. The Richardson Center has worked diligently with significant support from the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, Hostage US and the James Foley Foundation. , discreetly over six months into this release. The family will be forever grateful for the trio’s work.”
“The past 9 months have been difficult for the family and they are asking the media to respect their privacy and give Taylor the space they need to welcome home.”
In a separate statement to CNN, Richardson said Dudley was 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 securing Dudley’s release.
“After six months of hard work, it’s great to see Taylor Dudley freed,” Richardson told CNN by phone 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 are in custody in Russia, including former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been wrongfully detained. He was arrested in Russia in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. In 2022, the United States offered to trade Whelan and American basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Victor Bout, but Russia agreed only to release Griner.
With information by Jennifer Hansler.