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First on CNN: US Navy veteran released from Russian custody


By Natasha Bertrand, CNN

An American Navy veteran who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year was released from Russian custody on Thursday, his family’s spokesperson told CNN, after months of negotiations spearheaded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Taylor Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol police in April 2022 after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave which is territory governed by Moscow between Poland and Lithuania. He was in Poland attending a music festival, and it is not clear why he crossed the border.

Dudley’s detention — which the US government had not deemed as “wrongful,” or based on arbitrary and discriminatory motivations — had not been widely publicized before Thursday because his family wanted the negotiations for his release to remain private.

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a non-profit founded by Richardson, spearheaded the negotiations, family spokesperson Jonathan Franks told CNN. The former governor and diplomat has long worked to free Americans detained abroad, and his center played a role in securing the release of Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who had been wrongfully detained in Russia, last summer.

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

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

“Earlier today, Russian authorities released American Citizen Taylor Dudley, a 35-year-old Navy veteran, across the Polish border to Gov. Bill Richardson, his team, and a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, a release the Richardson Center worked on diligently and quietly for more than 6 months with significant assistance from the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, from Hostage U.S., and from the James Foley Foundation. The family will be forever grateful for the work of all three.”

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

In a separate statement to CNN, Richardson said Dudley had been released at the Russia-Poland Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border crossing 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 release of Taylor Dudley happen,” Richardson told CNN by phone on Thursday. “We worked it hard in Moscow and Kaliningrad and first raised it during our meetings with Russian officials on Brittney Griner and 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 are still “pressing forward” in negotiations with Russia to secure Whelan’s release.

“There are many low-profile Americans that deserve freedoms, too,” Richardson said. “In other words, there are many around the world that don’t have fame but that still deserve America’s backing.”

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

Several US citizens remain detained in Russia, including Whelan, a former US Marine who is designated as wrongfully detained. He was arrested in Russia in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Last year, the US proposed trading 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.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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