- Russian forces launched a major overnight drone attack on Ukrainian infrastructure facilities in the south and north of the country
- UK's Ministry of Defense says neither Ukraine nor Russia making progress
- Russia reportedly declared a former deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, who has criticized Russia's war in Ukraine, a wanted man
Here's a look at the latest developments on Saturday, November 18, in Russia's war in Ukraine:
Germany's Scholz calls for withdrawal of Russian troops, says he 'will speak to Putin'
German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he "will speak to [Vladimir Putin]," insisting that the Russian President "must withdraw troops" from Ukraine.
Scholz last spoke on the phone with Putin almost a year ago on December 2, 2022. He has always insisted that he is open to further talks but that there must be signs of "movement" from the Kremlin, too.
Speaking to voters in the northeastern German state of Brandenburg on Saturday, Scholz once again assured Ukraine of Germany's support in its defense against the Russian invasion for as long as necessary, insisting that Putin must not succeed in his goal of using force to annex parts of a neighboring country.
As for the date of a future discussion with Putin, Scholz said it’s "not like going for a coffee with someone" and presuming that "we'll agree in the end." In response to a question about whether peace negotiations are possible, he said there are currently no signs of this happening.
Scholz's comments came a day after a brief meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan where, while disagreeing on aspects of the conflict in the Middle East, the two leaders did agree "that Russia must be urged" to end its invasion.
However, Scholz also warned voters not to "overestimate" Germany’s influence in the world, quoting his predecessor Helmut Schmidt (Chancellor 1974-82) by saying: "Germany is a middle-sized power and it's good not to think we're bigger than we actually are."
Russia launches major drone attack on Ukrainian infrastructure
Russian forces launched a major overnight drone attack on Ukrainian infrastructure facilities in the south and north of the country, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday.
Ukrainian air defense says it shot down 29 out of 38 Iranian-made Shahed drones – also known as "kamikaze drones" – launched from Russian territory in an attack that lasted from 20:00 on Friday night until 04:00 on Saturday morning, and constituted the biggest drone attack in over six weeks.
In the south, the regional military command said on the Telegram messaging app that an energy infrastructure facility was hit near Odesa, while an administrative building was also damaged, wounding one civilian.
In Ukraine's northern Chernihiv region on the border with Russia and Belarus, two infrastructure buildings were damaged, while all drones targeting the capital, Kyiv, were shot down.
Both Russia and Ukraine have made extensive use of attack and reconnaissance drones throughout the 21-month war.
Last winter, Russian strikes left millions of Ukrainians without power for hours in sub-zero temperatures, a tactic Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he expects to be repeated this winter.
He told reporters on Thursday that Russia was "accumulating" missiles. While he said Ukraine did not have "100 percent protection," he said the country's air defenses were better than last year.
UK: Neither Ukraine nor Russia making 'substantial' progress
The United Kingdom's ministry of defense estimates that neither Ukraine nor Russia are making much significant progress towards their respective war aims as winter draws closer.
In October, several Russian brigades involving armored vehicles and thousands of infantry mounted a large-scale assault on Avdiivka, just north of the Russian-occupied eastern city of Donetsk, but failed to encircle the town. "Russia continues to suffer particularly heavy casualties around Avdiivka," say the British.
Also in the east, Ukrainian forces recaptured the key villages of Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut, but have since been embroiled in intense fighting to retain control.
On the southern front, Ukrainian forces claim they have established a beachhead on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River (see below), but the UK ministry of defense says: "Neither side has achieved substantial progress in any of these areas."
It concludes: "As colder winter weather sets in in earnest in eastern Ukraine, there are few immediate prospects of major changes in the frontline."
Kyiv reports 'successful operations' on Dnipro River's east bank
Ukrainian forces are engaged in heavy fighting on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River after conducting "successful operations" to establish and secure footholds in Russian-controlled territory, according to both Ukrainian and Russian reports.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been entrenched on opposite sides of the vast waterway in the southern Kherson region for more than a year, after Russia withdrew its troops from the western bank last November.
Since then Ukrainian forces have staged multiple attempts to cross the huge river. Last week, officials in Kyiv reported a "successful" breakthrough, while Moscow also admitted that Ukrainian forces had gained a foothold.
Estimates as to the numbers of Ukrainian troops involved range from the dozens to the hundreds, with the Ukrainian general staff confirming on Friday night that: "The Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to consolidate several bridgeheads on the left bank of the Dnipro River."
It added that Ukrainian forces "continue to hold ground ... and are taking steps to expand the foothold." In earlier statements, Ukraine's Marine Corps said it had "conducted a series of successful operations" and that "heavy fighting continues."
In addition to attempting to force a path to Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukrainian forces are also trying to push Russian troops back as far as possible from the banks of the Dnipro, in order to stop attacks on the civilian population across the river.
"The further away the Russian artillery is from Kherson, the better," the Ukrainian military said in a Telegram post.
Russia places former senior banker on wanted list
Russia's interior ministry has placed a former deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and deputy finance minister on its wanted listed, reported Russian state news agencies TASS and RIA on Saturday.
Since falling out with President Vladimir Putin for criticizing Russia's war in Ukraine, Sergei Aleksashenko has been living in exile in the United States and designated a "foreign agent" by the Kremlin.
On his Telegram channel, Aleksashenko said he had already been listed on a Russian government database for five years, but suggested that being added to the wanted list was a new development.
Russian lawmaker Vasiliy Piskarev, who heads the lower house of parliament's committee on investigating foreign states' interference in Russia's internal affairs, said that Aleksashenko had been engaged in shaping sanctions against Russia through his involvement with Stanford University, and accused him of treason.