Petraeus: Putin is ‘literally out of moves’

Former CIA Director and retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said in a new interview that Russia can still inflict destruction upon Ukraine, but Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot reverse Ukrainian gains in the four regions Moscow recently annexed.

“I think he’s literally out of moves,” Petraeus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. 

“He’s trying all these different desperate actions, but the fact is, the reality that confronts Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine is that Ukraine has a vastly more capable and larger force than does the country that is more than three times their size,” Petraeus continued. “So the reality on the battlefield now is desperate for Putin. There’s literally nothing he can do. It is irreversible.”

Putin on Wednesday signed documents absorbing four regions in Ukraine’s south and east into Russia after the country’s parliament approved the measure earlier in the week.

Petraeus predicted Ukraine would take back the entirety of those regions and perhaps even the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The Kremlin says residents voted on its latest plans in a supposed referendum, but the vote and subsequent annexations were widely condemned by U.S. and Western officials as a sham and illegal land grab.

Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, have continued fighting in those areas even as Russia threatens using nuclear weapons, and it remains unclear the exact borders of Russia’s new territorial claim.

“The sham referendum, the annexation — that doesn’t change anything,” Petraeus told CNBC. “The Ukrainians are already taking back these areas that have been annexed as about as quickly as Russia can annex them.”

Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces reclaimed the key transportation hub of Lyman, located in the annexed Donetsk region, and also made gains in the country’s south in the annexed Kherson region.

The gains became the latest embarrassments for Putin, who has faced steep territorial losses in recent weeks from a Ukrainian counteroffensive that previously found significant success in the country’s northeast.

Protests and dissent inside Russia has grown, further increasing when Putin called up 300,000 reservists to aid the country’s fight inside Ukraine. Thousands attempted to flee on planes and through land borders.

Petraeus told CNBC the momentum is “very much against Russia,” saying their military was scrambling to secure defensive positions in the annexed regions.

“There’s still an enormous amount of damage and destruction that Russia can do,” he said. “They can punish and they will continue to punish Ukraine on a daily basis with missiles, rockets and bombs and so forth. But at the end of the day, they cannot reverse the situation on the battlefield.”

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