WATCH: State Department spokesman Ned Price calls Navalny trial a ‘sham’

State Department spokesman Ned Price said if the world needed any further indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine “have been entirely hollow, they have not need to look further than Mariupol”.

Watch the briefing in the player above.

“Given the preponderance of Russian speakers, Putin might well have expected the people of this town to welcome his forces. Instead, they mounted fierce resistance,” Price said.

“This fierce and perhaps unexpected resistance may well explain why Putin used such force against this particular civilian population. The good people of Mariupol deny Putin’s claims and the Kremlin reacts with characteristic brutality.

In the latest update from Mariupol officials, they said on March 15 that at least 2,300 people had died in the siege.

But there are fears that the toll could be much higher. Last week’s airstrikes devastated a theater and an art school where many civilians had taken refuge.

Thousands of people managed to flee Mariupol, where the bombings cut off electricity, water and food supplies and cut off communications with the outside world.

LOOK: Russian court extends prison term for Alexei Navalny in crackdown on critics

But the Red Cross said a humanitarian aid convoy trying to reach the town with desperately needed supplies had still not been able to enter.

“What we haven’t seen at least yet is an indication that the Russians are interested or willing to defuse,” Price said.

“And that will really be the metric that we will continue to look to. We know what measure our Ukrainian partners will continue to turn to. »

Price also condemned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “fictional decision” on Tuesday, calling it “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices.” .

Navalny was sentenced to an additional nine years in prison in a decision seen as an attempt to keep Putin’s greatest enemy behind bars for as long as possible.

The new sentencing follows a year-long crackdown by Putin on Navalny supporters, other opposition activists and independent journalists in which authorities appear keen to stifle dissent.

Navalny, 45, who survived a 2020 poisoning with a nerve agent he blames on the Kremlin, is already serving 2½ years in a penal colony east of Moscow for a parole violation.

The retrial took place in a makeshift courtroom at the facility.

“This disturbing decision, the one announced today, is another example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on dissent and free speech,” Price said.

“Which is intended to hide the Kremlin’s brutal war, an unprovoked war against Ukraine.”


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