Russian President Vladimir Putin turns 70 on Friday, as his troops are reported to be further retreating after Ukraine's southern counteroffensive, one of the most significant breakthroughs since the war began.
In the northeast, Ukrainian forces continue to make steady progress, but in the Kherson region in the south, Ukraine has now retaken 500 kilometres of territories.
"Since October 1, more than half a 1000 square kilometres of territory and dozens of settlements have been liberated from the Russian sham referendum and stabilised only in the Kherson region," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during his nightly address on Thursday.
He added that "the day will surely come when we will report on successes in the Zaporizhzhia region as well... The day will come when we will also talk about the liberation of Crimea."
Putin meets neighbours on birthday
Putin himself is spending his 70th birthday meeting with former Soviet countries. An informal meeting is to take place in Saint Petersburg on Friday in which leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will congratulate the Russian leader, reported Tass, a Russian news outlet.
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In addition to Russia, countries such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan, members of CIS, will participate in the informal meeting. The group was formed after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Putin will also conduct a number of phone calls throughout the day, including with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.