He was arrested on his return to Russia at the start of the year, after recovering in Germany from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning, and swiftly sentenced to two years in prison on charges relating to an embezzlement case dating back to 2014.
The opposition organised anti-Kremlin rallies across the country in response, sparking a violent crackdown from police and thousands of detentions, before deciding to pause the street protest movement.
“Right now he is being killed in a prison colony. We can’t wait any longer,” Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said as he announced further demonstrations in all major Russian cities for Wednesday evening, shortly after President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address.
More than 450,000 people have already registered to take part in the events. While the number is shy of a previously announced target of half a million, the figure suggests that Wednesday could see the country’s biggest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.
“Have you seen a person being killed with your own eyes? You have. You are seeing it now,” Mr Volkov said in a video released via the opposition leader’s YouTube channel on Sunday.
“No matter how much you want to escape that thought, to change the topic – that does not change the fact that Alexei Navalny is being killed. Using terrible means. In front of all of us.”
Doctors said that the levels of potassium in Mr Navalny’s blood were significantly higher than the level that usually requires medical intervention. “This means both impaired renal function and that serious heart problems can develop at any minute,” his personal doctor Anastasia Vasilyeva said in a statement.
Mr Navalny has tried to keep an upbeat tone in messages passed to his lawyers and posted on social media, in which he has joked about his routine in prison.
But he has also told of how prison guards wake him once an hour throughout the night, and of threats to put him in a straight-jacket and force-feed him if he does not end his hunger strike.
The EU said it would discuss Mr Navalny’s case at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, as French President Emmanuel Macron said it was time to draw “clear red lines” in relation to Russia, a shift away from his usual conciliatory tone.
The EU said it was “deeply concerned” about Mr Navalny’s failing health, while a senior Biden administration official warned that Russia would face repercussions if he died.
“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Both the EU and the US have sanctioned Moscow over its treatment of the opposition leader.
Mr Navalny has long accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his poisoning, and last year appeared to trick an FSB agent into admitting details of the attempted killing during a sting call.
Since his jailing, authorities have kept up pressure on the opposition movement, raiding his offices and placing a number of Mr Navalny’s key allies under house arrest. Last week, prosecutors moved to label his organisation an “extremist group”, meaning supporters could face lengthy jail terms.
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