US Navy veteran Taylor Dudley released after almost a year in Russian detention

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US Navy veteran Taylor Dudley has been released after almost a year in Russian detention.

The 35-year-old was released on Thursday after negotiations led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson lasting months, CNN reported.

Mr Dudley, from Lansing Michigan, was taken into custody by Russian border patrol in April of last year after he crossed the border from Poland into Kaliningrad – a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania.

The veteran was attending a music festival in Poland and it remains unclear why he moved across the Russian border.

The US government hasn’t categorized the detention of Mr Dudley as “wrongful” or claimed that it was arbitrary or based on discrimination. The detention hadn’t been publicized on a wide scale ahead of Thursday’s release – the family wanted the release talks to stay private, CNN notes.

The talks were led by Mr Richardson’s non-profit – The Richardson Center for Global Engagement – Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for the family, told the outlet.

Mr Richardson, a former governor and diplomat, has worked extensively to ensure the safe return of Americans detained abroad. He has represented New Mexico in the US House, served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the UN, and as the Secretary of Energy before being governor between 2003 and 2011.

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement also worked on last summer’s release of former Marine Trevor Reed who had been wrongfully detained in Russia.

The vice president and executive president at the centre, Mickey Bergman, said that no exchange was made for Mr Dudley.

Mr Franks added to CNN that the Steve Menzies Global Foundation and the US Embassy also worked on getting Mr Dudley home.

“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 US 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 US, and from the James Foley Foundation. The family will be forever grateful for the work of all three,” Mr Franks said in a statement.

“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 said.

Mr Richardson told CNN that Mr Dudley had been released at the border between Russia and Poland in Bagrationovsk-Bezledy.

“After six months of intensive work, it’s great to see this release of Taylor Dudley happen,” the former governor told CNN. “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.”

While Ms Griner and Mr Reed have been released, Mr Whelan is still in Russian detention.

Mr Richardson said his team is “pressing forward” in their efforts to get him home.

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

The Independent has reached out to Mr Franks for comment.

Multiple Americans are detained in Russia amid terrible relations between the two countries as the Russian war in Ukraine continues.

Mr Whelan is a former Marine who was detained in Russia in December 2018. The US government has called his detention wrongful.

Last year, the US suggested that Mr Whelan, who has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, be traded back to the US alongside Ms Griner, the WNBA star. But the Russians only agreed to trade Ms Griner for Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, who was imprisoned in the US.

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