• Dudley was detained for crossing into Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad from Poland last year
  • It is unclear why he crossed the border
  • Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson led the months-long negotiations for Dudley's release

A U.S. Navy veteran has been released from Russian custody after being detained for nearly a year.

Taylor Dudley, 35, reunited with his family members Thursday following months of negotiations led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Dudley, of Lansing, Michigan, was detained by Russian border patrol police in April 2022 for crossing into Kaliningrad from Poland, reported CNN. Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave, lying between Poland and Lithuania, governed by Moscow, which has a substantial military presence there.

Dudley was reportedly backpacking through Europe and was attending a music festival before he was detained at the Poland-Russia border.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for the veteran's family, said Dudley traveled to Europe "to backpack and seek inspiration for a potential book he was working on." He "at some point crossed the Russian border" into Kaliningrad, Franks added.

It was not known why Dudley crossed the border or what were the charges against him. Dudley's detention was not widely publicized because his family wanted to keep the negotiations about his release private.

His detention was also not classified as "wrongful" by the U.S. State Department, the New York Post reported. The U.S. government did not make any exchange for Dudley's release. Nevertheless, the release is still seen as significant since the relations between Washington and Moscow remain tense.

"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 6 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," Franks said in a statement to CNN.

"The past 9 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," he added.

Dudley's release came weeks after Moscow released basketball star Brittney Griner in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Richardson's non-profit, Richardson Center for Global Engagement, led the months-long negotiations for the release of Dudley.

"After six months of intensive work, it's great to see this release of Taylor Dudley happen," Richardson told CNN. "We worked it hard in Moscow and Kaliningrad and first raised it during our meetings with Russian officials on Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed."

Reed, a U.S. Marine veteran wrongfully detained in Russia, was released last year. Marine veteran Whelan still remains in Russian custody on espionage charges.

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