Russia Releases US Navy Veteran Taylor Dudley: After months of negotiations led by the former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, an American Navy veteran who had been held in Russian custody for over a year was freed on Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for his family.
After entering Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave ruled by Moscow between Poland and Lithuania, from Poland in April 2022, Taylor Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was apprehended by Russian border patrol police. It is unknown why he crossed the border while in Poland for a music event.
Prior to Thursday, nothing was known about Dudley’s detention, which the US government had not ruled to be “wrongful” or the result of arbitrary and discriminatory motives. This was because his family wanted the discussions over his release to remain confidential.
According to Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for the Richardson family, the discussions were led by the non-profit organization Richardson founded, the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.
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The former governor and ambassador have long campaigned to secure the release of Americans incarcerated abroad. Last summer, Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who had been unlawfully detained in Russia, was freed thanks in part to the efforts of the organization he founded.
According to Mickey Bergman, the center’s vice president and executive president, no trade for Dudley was made on the US side.
According to Franks, Dudley’s release was also made possible with cooperation from the US Embassy and the Steve Menzies Global Foundation.
“Earlier today, Russian authorities handed over American Citizen Taylor Dudley, a 35-year-old Navy veteran, to Gov. Bill Richardson, his team, and a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. The Richardson Center worked diligently and covertly on Dudley’s release for more than six months with a lot of help from the James Foley Foundation, the Steve Menzies Global Foundation, and Hostage U.S. The work of the three will be cherished by the family forever.
“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.
Following nearly a year in negotiations, Dudley was freed on Thursday at the Russia-Poland Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border crossing, according to a second statement from Richardson to CNN. He also expressed gratitude to the State Department and the American embassies in Warsaw and Moscow for their assistance in securing 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.”
Griner and Reed, both US citizens, were later freed; however, Whelan is still being held by the Russian government. In order to secure Whelan’s release, Richardson declared that he and his team are still “pushing forward” in their talks with Russia.
“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.”
Due to Moscow’s conflict in Ukraine and US sanctions on the Russian government, US-Russian ties are at an all-time low.
Whelan, a former US Marine who is accused of being illegally kidnapped, is one of several Americans who are still being held captive in Russia. He was taken into custody in Russia in December 2018 and given a 16-year prison term. When the US offered to exchange Viktor Bout, an arms dealer, for Whelan and Griner, an American basketball player, only Griner was released by Russia.
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