The President of the United States of America, Joe Biden and Russia has exchanged jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Bout has been in an American prison for 12 years for conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans.
Confirming the news, President Joe Biden said Griner was safe and on a plane home from the United Arab Emirates.
“I’m glad to say Brittney’s in good spirits… she needs time and space to recover,” he said at the White House.
Brittney Griner was arrested in Moscow and sent to a penal colony for the possession of cannabis oil.
The Biden administration proposed a prisoner exchange last July, aware Moscow had long sought Bout’s release.
Russia’s foreign ministry also confirmed the swap and said “the Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” pending his arrival on Russian soil.
Russian news agencies said he was still being flown to Vnukovo airport near Moscow.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Griner’s wife Cherelle praised the efforts of the Biden administration in securing her release: “I’m just standing here overwhelmed with emotions.”
Widely called the “merchant of death”, Viktor Bout sold arms to warlords and rogue governments, becoming one of the world’s most wanted men.
Viktor Bout’s exploits inspired the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, which was loosely based on his life.
His secretive career was brought to an end by an elaborate US sting in 2008, when he was arrested at a hotel in the Thai capital Bangkok, to the anger of the Russian government.
He was extradited two years later and has spent the past 12 years languishing in an American jail for conspiring to support terrorists and kill Americans.
Bout’s circumstances could hardly be more different from that of his opposite number in the prisoner swap.
Following the swap, President Biden urged Americans to take precautions before travelling overseas, warned of the risk of being wrongfully detained by a foreign government.