Russian state television has imposed a virtual blackout on reporting on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. He claims he could die “any minute” in a prison hospital.
The imprisoned 44-year-old, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, is on hunger strike and protests are planned in 77 cities to show his support.
Wednesday’s protests coincide with Vladimir Putin’s main annual speech to parliament.
The Russian government has said the protests are illegal.
On Monday TV news did not report that Mr Navalny was hospitalized after three weeks without food because of his deteriorating health.
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They also ignored a meeting of EU foreign ministers where the bloc held the Russian authorities responsible for Mr Navalny’s health.
The US has threatened Russia with unspecified “consequences” if the prominent Putin enemy dies in prison while Britain has called for his release.
Russia said the 44-year-old Navalny was in “satisfactory” condition despite moving to the hospital.
And Putin’s spokesman told the West to take care of Navalny, whom the president never mentions by name.
“The health of convicts in the Russian Federation cannot and should not be an issue that concerns them,” said Dmitry Peskov.
Several Kremlin-friendly newspapers and news websites mentioned the story, but it was missing from state media news.
Navalny went on hunger strike after prison authorities refused to allow him to receive medical treatment in the hospital because of a back and leg complaint.
The prison authorities also prevented Navalny doctors from visiting him.
Updated footage was released last week of Navalny in prison doing push-ups, a sequence believed to have been leaked to Kremlin-friendly media.
The CCTV video was used to argue that he wasn’t as weak as his aides claimed.
His lawyer Alexei Liptser said after the politician’s visit to a prison hospital in Vladimir on Monday afternoon that he was “really unwell”.
“Given the test results and general health, it was decided to move him here,” he said.
“In the evening he got significantly worse.”
He confirmed that Navalny was continuing his hunger strike despite his supporters’ concerns for his health.
“In general, his looks show that he is really uncomfortable,” he said.
Navalny’s wife, Yulia, 44, visited him last week and said, “I’ve never seen skin that taut around the skull.”
She has said that if he dies in prison, she will hold Putin and the governor of his prison accountable.
Last year, Mr. Navalny was almost killed when he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.