U.S. Navy veteran Taylor Dudley, who had been detained in Russia for nine months, was released on Thursday and was handed over to U.S. custody in Poland, according to former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.
Dudley, from Lansing, Michigan, was taken into custody by Russian border patrol police in April 2022 after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian province sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, and is the headquarters of the Russian navy’s Baltic Fleet.
The 35-year-old was attending a Poland music festival, and it remains unclear why he crossed the Russian border.
His release was negotiated for months and led by the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a nonprofit led by former diplomat Bill Richardson.
According to Richardson, U.S. embassies in Warsaw and Moscow and several diplomats had played a role in securing Dudley’s release at the Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border crossing.
“Taylor’s safe return would not have been possible without the help of Ara Abramyan and Vitaly Pruss, who turned every stone in this joint effort. And the help of Steve Menzies, who offered tremendous support to this effort,” said Richardson.
“It is significant that despite the current environment between our two countries, the Russian authorities did the right thing by releasing Taylor today. And as we celebrate Taylor’s safe return, we remain very concerned for Paul Whelan, and are committed to continue to work on his safe return, as we have been for the last four years, as well as other Americans.”
The detention had not been widely publicized before Thursday because Dudley’s family wanted the negotiations for his release to remain private.
“The negotiations and work to secure Taylor’s safe return were done discreetly and with engagement on the ground in both Moscow and Kaliningrad and with full support from Taylor’s family back in the United States,” the Richardson Center said.
“We work on behalf of the families and at no cost to them. The Richardson Center is greatly appreciative of our partners, including many private individuals and foundations who support and enable our work as a non-for-profit,” the organization said.
Contrary to Russia’s previous releases of imprisoned Americans, there was no swap for Dudley. The U.S. government hasn’t categorized Dudley’s detention as “wrongful” or claimed that it was arbitrary or based on discrimination.
“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 six 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,” said Jonathan Franks, a family spokesperson.
“The past nine 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.