Russia releases US Navy veteran into Poland, says former Governor Richardson

Russia has released US Navy veteran Dudley, who had been backpacking near the Russian border in Poland.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the State Council on youth policy in Moscow, Russia, December 22, 2022.  (photo credit: Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Pool via REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the State Council on youth policy in Moscow, Russia, December 22, 2022.
(photo credit: Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Pool via REUTERS)

Russia on Thursday released a US citizen who had crossed into its Kaliningrad exclave in the first weeks of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last February, former US Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, who met the man at the border in Poland, said in a statement.

Background to Dudley's Russian deportation

US Navy veteran Taylor Dudley, 35, was backpacking in Europe when he crossed the Polish-Russian border in April, Jonathan Franks, a lawyer who represents families of Americans detained overseas, said in an email to reporters.

Dudley's circumstances while in Russia were unclear and his case had not been previously publicized.

The US State Department was aware of reports that an American citizen had been deported from Russia, said a spokesperson who declined to comment further on the case, citing privacy considerations.

Dudley's release at the Bagrationovsk-Bezledy border crossing comes as relations between Moscow and Washington remain fractured after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began Febuary 24, 2022.

 Ukrainian authorities show where Russian forces set up prison and torture chamber, in Kupiansk (credit: REUTERS) Ukrainian authorities show where Russian forces set up prison and torture chamber, in Kupiansk (credit: REUTERS)

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released by Russia last month in a swap for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout after talks between US and Russian officials, but former Marine Paul Whelan remains in a Russian prison camp.

Mexico governor and US ambassador to the United Nations who has helped free Americans detained abroad, met Dudley at the border and worked on the case for months, according to attorney Franks and a statement from the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.

"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.

"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

A US embassy representative in Warsaw was also present at Dudley's release, according to Franks, and the Richardson Center thanked US officials, as well as businessman Steve Menzies, for helping secure Dudley's return.

A spokesman for the Polish foreign ministry declined to comment on the case.

Kaliningrad is a Russian province sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania and is the headquarters of the Russian navy's Baltic Fleet.