Russian Army at 'Breaking Point' After Putin's Lyman Defeat: Lt. General

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster said Sunday that Russia's army may be at the edge of "collapse" after it faced defeat in Lyman—the previously occupied Ukrainian city where Russian forces retreated on Saturday.

The loss in Lyman, which was used as a transportation hub amid Russia's invasion, has been viewed as a major setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who just a day before troops withdrew from the city had illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine including Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, the latter in which Lyman is located.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian army forced Russian troops to retreat from the city after surrounding up to 5,000 troops in the strategic location. The Russian Defense Ministry later confirmed that troops "retreated to more advantageous lines."

Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked McMaster about Ukraine's recent victory.

Russian Army at 'Breaking Point:' McMaster
Above, H.R. McMaster attends a joint news conference in the White House on April 3, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The retired U.S. Army lieutenant general said Sunday that Russia's army may be at the edge of "collapse" after it faced defeat in Lyman—the previously occupied Ukrainian city where Russian forces retreated on Saturday. Alex Wong

"What do you see happening, and what do you forecast is Vladimir Putin's next move?" Brennan asked.

McMaster said he believes that Saturday's success for Ukraine "could turn into a cascading series of defeats of Russian forces," and added that "what we might be at here is really at the precipice of really the collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine, a moral collapse. I think they must really be at a breaking point."

He continued: "If you look at just the numbers of casualties, the vast area that they're trying to defend, and now, of course, Russia is trying to mobilize conscripts and send them to the front untrained. And I think it's very important to also understand that these forces that are in full retreat, now out of Lyman, were really the first round of mobilization."

"Remember when Putin was trying to recruit more and more people with paying about three-times the average wages to get so-called volunteers to go forward, those forces were hastily trained, thrown into that front, and these are the forces that are collapsing just right right now," McMaster said.

In June, Russian military officials began offering Russians three times the national average salary to participate in the war in Ukraine, and began forming units to recruit mercenaries across the country.

Last month, Putin announced a "partial mobilization" of the country—an effort to bring an additional 300,000 Russians with some military training onto the battlefield. The Russian leader said the measure was necessary "to protect the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Russia."

In similar comments on Sunday, retired U.S. Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus said that Putin's failures in the war are "irreversible."

"There's no amount of shambolic mobilization, which is the only way to describe it, no amount of annexation, no amount of even veiled nuclear threats, can actually get him out of this particular situation," Petraeus said on ABC's This Week.

Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment.