Navalny taken to hospital as fears for his life grow

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is currently on hunger strike in a penal colony east of Moscow with his doctors warning he could die

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is currently on hunger strike in a penal colony east of Moscow with his doctors warning he could die

The Kremlin critic's own doctor has previously warned that Navalny could die "any minute".

A still image from CCTV footage published by Life.Ru shows what is said to be jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny speaking with a prison guard at the IK-2 corrective penal colony in the town of Pokrov, Russia, in this image released April 2, 2021.

Ivan Zhdanov from Mr Navalny's team said on Monday that the official statement did nothing to assuage their worst fears.

The Navalny camp plans mass countrywide demonstrations on Wednesday from Kaliningrad in Russia's far west to Vladivostok on its Pacific coast.

Russian authorities, who have broken up previous allies and arrested thousands of people, said the planned protests were illegal and warned people not to take to the streets.

Navalny insists his ailments are linked to an August 2020 poisoning attack with a military-grade nerve agent that almost took his life, and that he and Western governments blame on the Russian government.

Navalny began refusing food on March 31, in protest at what he claimed was a lack of proper medical treatment for his leg and back pain.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement but also refused to investigate the incident - maintaining there is no definitive proof Navalny was ever poisoned.

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The Kremlin has rebuffed Western demands and sanctions as attempts to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

Russian Federation replied with sanctions of its own a day later. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the relations with the European Union were at a low point even before the new sanctions were introduced.

US President Joe Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Washington had warned the Kremlin that it would be "held accountable by the global community" if Navalny died. "The state of health of those convicted and jailed on Russian territory can not and should not be a theme of their interest", spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Moscow has largely shrugged off worldwide pressure since becoming a pariah to the West in 2014 when it seized Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and backed an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Putin himself has given no explanation for the build-up, but observers have suggested that it could be designed as a "test" for Joe Biden after he took a tough line with the Kremlin, and as Putin sizes up his new counterpart. The Kremlin said Putin would take part in a separate online climate summit that Biden is hosting on Thursday.

Concerns over Navalny's health have mounted against the background of a spike in tensions between Moscow and the West over a litany of issues, including Russia's troop build-up on Ukraine's border, interference in United States elections and other perceived hostile activities. The Czech Republic said on Monday Moscow's decision to expel more Czechs than the number of Russians expelled by Prague was unexpected, and it called for a show of support from European allies.

Kiev has been battling Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and clashes intensified early this year, effectively shredding a ceasefire agreed last July.

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