After being in Russian custody since February, WNBA star Brittney Griner has been released from prison, reports CBS News. She was freed early Thursday morning in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout also known as the “Merchant of Death."

To secure Griner's release, President Joe Biden signed an order to commute Bout's 25-year federal prison sentence and return him to Russia.

In conjunction with Moscow, the prisoner swap was negotiated over the last few weeks and was approved by Biden last week.

A White House official said the president spoke to Griner by phone in the Oval Office, where he was joined by Brittney's wife Cherelle Griner, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

In a tweet, President Joe Biden officially confirmed Griner’s release.

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” the tweet read. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

During the press conference on Thursday, Biden reiterated that Griner was unjustly detained.

“She’s on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held in intolerable circumstances,” Biden said.

He added: “Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones—and she should have been there all along.”

Cherelle described her wife’s imprisonment as “the darkest moment” in her life but expressed her gratitude to the Biden administration and everyone else for their unwavering support.

“Today, I’m just standing here, overwhelmed with emotions,” she said.

She also highlighted the imprisonment of Paul Whelan, a retired U.S. Marine who has been imprisoned in Russia for almost four years and how she will work to bring back U.S. citizens who are imprisoned overseas.

"BG and I will remain committed to bringing other [wrongfully detained] Americans home, including Paul Whelan,” she added.

When negotiations were taking place, Blinken hoped that Whelan would be a part of the swap. 

“Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention,” he said in a statement.

When the news broke of Griner’s release, the Whelan family released a statement about being told beforehand about the prisoner swap.

“That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul," Whelan’s brother David Whelan said. "I do not know if he is aware yet, although he will surely learn from Russian media."

After having her appeal denied, Griner was transported to a Russian penal colony to serve out her 9-year sentence in August,

At her hearing, the Russian court claimed that Griner deliberately committed the crime, rejecting her plea for leniency. She was arrested with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport back on February 17, 2022.

In accordance with standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners, Griner was expected to undergo a medical evaluation in San Antonio where she will reunite with her wife Cherrelle.