Paul Whelan
© Sputnik/Kirill Kallinikov
Paul Whelan in the Lefortovo court in Moscow
Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia on spy charges, will serve his sentence in Russia's Republic of Mordovia, about 500km east of Moscow. It had been rumored he was likely to be swapped with the US for Russians.

The convicted spy, who holds American, British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was found guilty in June by a Moscow court on charges of espionage and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was arrested in December 2018 after receiving a USB device from an undercover FSB officer, containing sensitive information. Whelan maintains that he was set up, and thought the memory stick contained photos of a tourist trip.

According to Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service, the former Marine is being moved on a prison train from Moscow's Lefortovo detention center to prison IK-17 - a seven-hour drive from Moscow. Despite being convicted almost two months ago, he was not immediately transported out of pre-trial detention.

Whelan has encouraged the US Government to swap him for Russian prisoners. In June, his lawyer named two potential options for a prisoner swap - arms dealer Viktor Bout and alleged drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko. Whelan's transportation away from Moscow is likely to be interpreted as a sign that an exchange is still some time away.

On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov noted that Moscow had sent Washington a list of citizens it was interested in swapping, but explained that the US had not shown any interest.

Last week, another former US Marine, Trevor Reed, was sent to prison for nine years after being convicted of attacking two police officers, in a judgment the US Embassy called "absurd."