Perilous Moment for Ukraine Nears as Mariupol Looks Set to Fall: Petraeus

Former CIA director David Petraeus said Sunday that the next few days in Ukraine will be "a very tenuous period" as the city of Mariupol appears poised to fall to the Russians.

Speaking to ABC's This Week in an interview, he also said that the situation in the area has "become a bit of a Ukrainian Alamo."

"It's fighting to the last defender, and pinning down multiple Russian battalions and doing so very heroically. But ultimately, it looks as if it's going to have to collapse, it's going to be taken. And when it does that is a moment of some peril for Ukraine, because now that port can be used by the Russians," Petraeus stated.

Last week, the Russian military urged Ukraine to surrender Mariupol, citing the "terrible humanitarian catastrophe," but Ukrainian officials refused to do so.

Mariupol is located on the Sea of Azof, which is connected to the Black Sea. CTV News noted in a report Friday that if the Russians captured the city it would give them a connection between the Crimean Peninsula, which they annexed in 2014, and Ukraine's Donbas region.

"They want to create a land bridge," Aurel Braun, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Toronto told the news outlet. "And Mariupol is what's holding out the completion of that land bridge."

Petraeus said that if the Russians take the city, it will "free up a number of battalions that were the ones that have been closing the circle, closing the noose on Mariupol who can then push further North."

The former CIA director added that the U.S. needs to "provide everything we can that can provided without needlessly provoking a direct confrontation with Russia."

Mariupal Looks Set to Fall: Petraeus
Former CIA director David Petraeus said it appears the Russian city of Mariupol will fall to the Russians. Above, two people in a bunker on a military position on the Azov Sea coastline on February 18 in Mariupol, Ukraine. Pierre Crom

According to Radio Free Europe, Mariupol's mayor, Vadym Boychenko, called for a "complete evacuation" of the city on Saturday. The mayor has said that thousands of people have died in the city since Russia's invasion and that 90 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed or damaged.

Earlier this month, city officials in Mariupol began burying the dead in a mass grave after morgues became overwhelmed.

In his interview on Sunday, Petraeus also commented on President Joe Biden's speech in Poland on Saturday night. During the address, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," comments that the White house later walked back, and that have been criticized.

Petraeus said those words "will play on [Putin's] mind and it could complicate matters going down the road," but added that statement "should not overshadow what was an extraordinarily important and successful trip to Europe."