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Russia releases Navy vet detained nearly a year

US flag (Linda LaBonte Britt/US Air Force)
January 12, 2023

Taylor Dudley, an American Navy veteran detained in Russia for nine months, has been released after months of negotiations, his family’s spokesperson told CNN. No exchange was made on the U.S. side.

Russian authorities freed Dudley across the Polish border early Thursday, a release that a team of non-profits had “worked on diligently and quietly for more than 6 months,” family spokesperson Jonathan Franks said.

Dudley, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol officers in April after crossing from Poland into Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea, while attending a music festival in Poland. It isn’t clear why he crossed the border, according to CNN.

Dudley’s imprisonment in Russia had not been widely reported until the announcement of his release. 

The U.S. government had not deemed his detainment as “wrongful,” as it had for other high-profile prisoners like recently-released WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. And his family wanted it kept under wraps to protect the negotiations, CNN reported.

Franks, the spokesperson, said the negotiations were led by the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a non-profit founded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that works to release prisoners held abroad. 

Dudley’s release comes a month after Griner was freed from a Russian penal colony, where she was a month into a nine-year sentence on drug charges. Her release became controversial after it brought attention to Whelan, still serving time on espionage charges even though he had already been detained in Russia for more than three years when Griner was first arrested.

Richardson said the center is “pressing forward” in negotiations with Russia to free Whelan. The center also helped enable the negotiations that led to last year’s release of American citizen Trevor Reed after more than two years in Russian custody, CNN reported

Speaking on Dudley’s release, Richardson said, “There are many low-profile Americans that deserve freedoms, too. … There are many around the world that don’t have fame but that still deserve America’s backing.”

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.