French President Emmanuel Macron discussed jailed Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike since May, with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday, said Macron's office.
"The President of the Republic conveyed to President Putin his concerns, given that the health of Mr Sentsov seems to have worsened dangerously, and the importance that Russia urgently finds a humanitarian solution to the situation," said the statement from Macron's office.
Putin has promised to provide information on the state of Sentsov's health.
Sentsov, imprisoned on what he says are political charges, began his hunger strike ahead of the World Cup to highlight Russia's human rights record.
He has vowed to continue his protest and is being sustained with water and a glucose drip with vitamins. Sentsov's lawyer Dmitry Dinze told AFP earlier this week that his client has so far lost 30 kilogrammes, his heart rate has slowed and he has very low levels of red blood cells.
The 42-year-old Sentsov is serving a 20-year sentence in the far north of Russia after being convicted three years ago of arson attacks in his native Crimea, following its annexation by Moscow. Amnesty International called the trial “an extremely cynical show trial”.
Macron has already raised the Sentsov case several times with Putin, including during a visit to Saint Petersburg in May.
Sentsov's cousin Natalya Kaplan wrote on social media Wednesday that Sentsov was in a "catastrophically bad" state and could be close to death.
"He can barely get up. He writes that the end is near, and he's not referring to when he will be freed," Kaplan wrote.
However Ukrainian human rights official Lioudmila Denissova on Thursday posted photos of Sentsov on Facebook and said he was doing remarkably well under the circumstances.
The three pictures showed Sentsov dressed in a black and grey prison uniform with a neutral look on his face.
Denissova expressed surprise at how well the hunger striker was bearing up, describing him as being in a "satisfactory" condition.
"He is active, watches television, reads books, he writes from time to time," she said, adding that the three pictures she posted were taken by prison staff and shared with Sentsov's consent.
Sentsov's lawyer Dinze responded that the filmmaker was "worse in reality," suggesting that the photos had been manipulated.
Amnesty International requested access to Sentsov along with medical experts but was denied.
Sentsov's mother Ludmila wrote to Putin on June 22.
"I ask you... not to ruin his life," said the letter, which was published by the Echo of Moscow radio station.
"He has now spent four years in prison. His children are waiting for him, and his youngest son has autism. They are struggling without him," she wrote.
On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the letter was received and that it had been forwarded “to the relevant department of the presidential administration”. But he was “not ready to talk about any sort of response", Peskov said. "You know that the pardoning process has several steps. I cannot tell you any more at this point."
Western governments, led by Macron, as well as celebrities including US actor Johnny Depp and writer Stephen King, have repeatedly urged the Kremlin to release Sentsov.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)