Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

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Ukrainian soldiers stand on a tank on the frontline in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on August 19. (Anatoli Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

As part of the preparation for the current Ukrainian counteroffensive, the United States urged Kyiv to keep the operation limited in both its objectives and its geography to avoid spreading and becoming bogged down in several fronts, several U.S. and Western officials and Ukrainian sources told CNN.

Those talks involved engaging in a “war game” with Kyiv, the sources said – analytical exercises meant to help Ukrainian forces understand the levels of force they would need to succeed in different scenarios.

The Ukrainians initially considered a broader counteroffensive but have narrowed their mission south to the Kherson region in recent weeks, U.S. and Ukrainian officials said.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Pat Ryder told CNN that “the United States maintains a regular multi-level military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine. We will not comment on the specifics of these engagements. Generally speaking, we provide Ukrainians with information for help better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression.Ultimately, the Ukrainians make the final decisions for their operations.

Officials say they believe there is now increased parity between the Ukrainian and Russian military. But Western officials have been reluctant to label the nascent Ukrainian operation – which appeared to begin Monday in the southern province of Kherson – a genuine “counter-offensive”.

What is the likely success of Ukraine to regain lost territory remains an open question, sources familiar with the latest intelligence told CNN. Ukrainian officials have previously said that this offensive is likely to be a slow operation, and an extremely cold winter is coming, then a mud in early spring, both of which could force pauses in the fighting.

Still, there is a distinct sense among U.S. and Western advisers to Ukraine that Ukraine’s military is on a par with Russia than was thought just a few months ago, said several officials at CNN. Russia still maintains superior numbers in terms of overall manpower and mass artillery.

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