WASHINGTON – Russia released American basketball player Brittney Griner on Thursday in a dramatic prisoner swap that saw the United States free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, US officials said.

The swap, at a time of heightened tensions over Ukraine, achieves an important goal for President Joe Biden, but it came at a heavy price, leaving behind an American jailed for nearly four years in Russia.

Biden claimed that Griner is “on her way home” after being released in Russia in a prisoner swap. ”She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” tweeted Biden, who is scheduled to address the nation from the White House shortly.

The deal, the second exchange with Russia in eight months, led to the release of the most prominent American detained abroad.

Griner is a two-time Olympic medalist, and her imprisonment on drug charges brought unprecedented attention to the wrongful arrest population.

The player had been sentenced to nine years in prison after the Russian authorities found cannabis oil during a search carried out in February at the Moscow airport.

The authorization to release the arms dealer nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” reveals the intense pressure that was on the US government to win Griner’s freedom, particularly after the recent resolution of his criminal case and transfer to a penal colony.

Categorized in: