Brittney Griner Lands in U.S. After Russian Prison Release: 'Welcome Home BG!'

Griner landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas around 6:00 a.m. Friday following her release from Russian custody in a prisoner exchange for a convicted arms dealer

Brittney Griner is back on U.S. soil.

Shortly after the WNBA star, 32, was released from Russian custody in a prisoner exchange for a convicted arms dealer, after spending nearly ten months under arrest, Griner touched down at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas around 6:00 a.m. Friday, reported NBC News.

Images show Griner walking down the steps of a private jet shortly after it arrived wearing a beanie hat and winter coat.

"So happy to have Brittney back on U.S. soil," U.S. Special Presidential Envoy Roger Carstens tweeted shortly afterward. "Welcome home BG!"

Brittney Griner gets out of a plane after landing at the JBSA-Kelly Field Annex runway on December 9, 2022 in San Antonio
Brittney Griner, arrives in San Antonio, Texas. SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on drug smuggling charges, was released in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout on Thursday, CBS News reported, citing a U.S. official.

The exchange agreement between Griner and Bout was recently negotiated with Moscow and was given final approval by Biden last Thursday, five former U.S. officials told the outlet. Paul Whelan, another American who remains jailed in Russia, was not included in the swap, CNN said.

Brittney Griner, right, arrives at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, following her release in a prisoner swap with Russia, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022
AP Photo/Eric Gay

After the news of Griner's release was made public, Biden, 80, tweeted: "Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home," alongside photographs of himself, Vice President Kamala Harris and Griner's wife, Cherelle.

Griner was previously sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 10, just below the maximum allowed sentence of 10 years. Griner's lawyers said at the time, in a statement shared with PEOPLE, that the verdict, is "absolutely unreasonable" and said they will "certainly file an appeal."

RELATED VIDEO: WNBA Star Brittney Griner Released from Russian Custody in Prisoner Swap

A day before Griner landed in the U.S., Biden also delivered remarks from the White House about the athlete's release.

"Good morning folks, and it is a good morning," Biden, who was standing before Harris, 58, and Cherelle, began. "Moments ago, standing together with her wife Cherelle in the Oval Office, I spoke with Brittney Griner. She's safe, she's on a plane, she's on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances."

Cherelle also spoke during the press conference, stating, "Over the last nine months, you all have been so privy to one of the darkest moments of my life, and so today I am just standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration."

Noting how Biden previously mentioned that getting an American citizen back from overseas detainment "is not easy," Cherelle continued, "There's been so many hands involved, and so I'd like to take a moment to just specifically mention a few."

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Shouting out Vice President Harris and Griner's fellow Phoenix Mercury basketball players, among many others, Cherelle then added, "Today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there's so many other families who aren't whole." She then also mentioned Paul Whelan, another American who remains jailed in Russia and who was not included in the swap centered around Griner.

"Thank you everybody for your support, and today's just a happy day for me and my family, so I'm gonna smile right now," Cherelle added. "Thank you."

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