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

State Department Spokesman Ned Price says if the world needed any further indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine “have been entirely hollow, they need look no further than Mariupol.”

Watch the briefing in the player above.

“Given the preponderance of Russian speakers, Putin may well have expected residents of this city to welcome his forces. Instead, they have mounted stiff resistance,” said Price.

“That fierce and perhaps unexpected resistance may well explain why Putin has employed such force against this particular civilian population. The brave people of Mariupol are putting the lie to Putin’s claims, and the Kremlin is reacting with characteristic brutality.”

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

But there are fears the toll could be much higher. Airstrikes over the past week devastated a theater and an art school where many civilians were taking shelter.

Thousands have managed to flee Mariupol, where the bombardment has cut off electricity, water and food supplies and severed communication with the outside world.

WATCH: Russian court extends Alexei Navalny’s prison sentence amid crackdown on critics

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

“What we have not seen yet at least, is any indication that the Russians are interested or willing to de-escalate,” said Price.

“And that really is going to be the metric that we continue to look to. We know what is the metric that our Ukrainian partners will continue to to look to.”

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

Navalny was sentenced to nine more years in prison in a move that was seen as an attempt to keep Putin’s biggest foe behind bars for as long as possible.

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

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

The new trial was held in a makeshift courtroom at the facility.

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

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