US Navy veteran released by Russia at Polish border

Taylor Dudley was backpacking in Europe when he crossed from Poland into Russia in April

Bill Richardson assisted with US Navy veteran Taylor Dudley's release. AP
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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 UN Bill Richardson, who met the man at the border in Poland, said in a statement.

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.

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

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

Mr 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 on February 24, 2022.

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.

Mr Richardson, a former New Mexico governor and US ambassador to the UN who has helped free Americans detained abroad, met Mr Dudley at the border and worked on the case for months, according to Mr Franks and a statement from the Richardson Centre 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 Centre said.

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

Updated: January 12, 2023, 6:20 PM