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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Russia released US Navy veteran who had been quietly detained


The U.S. Embassy in Moscow in June 2022.


By MICHAEL CROWLEY


Russia released a U.S. Navy veteran who had been detained since April in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, a spokesperson for his family announced Thursday, marking the second time in just over a month that an American has been freed from Russian custody.


Russian officials allowed Taylor Dudley, a 35-year-old U.S. citizen, to cross the Polish border. Dudley had been held for nine months, the spokesperson said, although his case was largely unknown to people outside the U.S. government, his family and its advocates.


Dudley was greeted in Poland by an official from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and Bill Richardson, a former New Mexico congressman and governor who specializes in negotiating the freedom of Americans detained overseas.


Dudley was backpacking in Europe and had traveled to Poland to attend a music festival, according to the spokesperson, Jonathan Franks. He said Dudley “at some point crossed the Russian border” into Kaliningrad. It remained unclear on what charges he had been held.


It was not clear what, if anything, the U.S. might have offered Russia in return for Dudley’s freedom, which came less than five weeks after Russia’s release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap organized by the Biden administration. A spokesperson for Richardson told CNN, which first reported the news, that no exchange had been made by the United States.


The White House and State Department had no immediate official comment.


“It is significant that despite the current environment between our two countries, the Russian authorities did the right thing by releasing Taylor today,” Richardson said in a statement.


He said he had been working “discreetly” with Dudley’s family for six months on the matter, along with U.S. State Department officials and a Russian business owner close to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, among others.


One White House official, speaking on background because of the sensitivity of the matter, credited the work of U.S. officials at embassies in Warsaw and Moscow and said that, out of consideration for the family’s privacy, the administration would not provide further details.


U.S. officials had not publicized Dudley’s case or declared him “wrongfully detained,” as they have others held in Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, including Griner and former Marine and corporate security consultant Paul Whelan.


Griner was released Dec. 8 in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a U.S. federal prison sentence. Whelan remains imprisoned on espionage charges that he and the U.S. government deny.


Biden officials say they have been working with Russia to secure his freedom but have reported no specific progress since Griner’s release. Many analysts believe that Russia would only trade Whelan for a captured Russian spy.

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