Russian Banksy
A work by Russian artist P183 in Moscow (Reuters)

A graffiti artist in Russia whose identity was never known and whose politically charged messages drew comparisons with Banksy has reportedly died at the age of 29.

The artist, whose first name was Pavel but who went by the nickname Pasha P183, wore a black balaclava to keep his identity secret. He described himself as an anarchist.

The theatre company Teatralnoye Delo, which had commissioned him to create scenery for a rock musical named Ted, said the artist died on 1 April but gave no further details. The Russian press cited sources saying that he had either hanged himself or died of poisoning.

"I wanted that work to carry the most important message - that a person mustn't sell himself," Pasha P183 said in a rare interview posted on last year. "I made a chocolate bar that can't be bought, using a giant panel of concrete."

He was referring to a pile of bricks at a Moscow factory that he had painted to resemble bars of chocolate.

The artist started painting graffiti in the dead of night 15 years ago and was often picked up by Moscow police. He created dozens of murals, including illusions and installations.

Some of his most recent works referred to street protests against President Vladimir Putin. One picture showed a protester lighting a flare; another had shield-carrying riot police stencilled on to a subway station's glass doors.

In an interview with RT, he said that through his work he wanted to communicate certain ideas to people.

"Like poets who put their thoughts and reflections on to paper, I want mine to be heard," he said.

"I want to teach people in this country to tell lies from the truth and to tell bad from good," he continued. "This is what our people still cannot do.

"Expressing your opinion is a form of civil defence."