The Ukraine has no chance of victory, especially in March. The Russians will go through their army like a hot knife through butter.
The way things are going, all you'd have to do is change the dates of the events in the first post and this could be a thread in the Future History forum.
March 19, 2014
After a two day long air campaign, Russia launched a ground offensive into Ukraine at dawn, occupying the city of Luhansk with little resistance. Their initial objective was to reach the Dnieper to create a corridor to Crimea. The most northern point of advance was on Kharkiv, where Russian T-80s engaged Ukrainian T-72s, with both sides taking losses. The 19th Motor Rifle Brigade entered Kharkiv, where heavy fighting took place against dug in Ukrainian troops mostly from the 92nd Mechanised Brigade. Many civilians took up arms for or against the Russians, leading to fears of an underlying civil war. The 92nd Mechanised was reported to be holding on against the Russians, despite Russian air support which caused heavy losses amongst Ukrainian armoured units. The 17th Tank Brigade moved up south of Kharkiv but encountered Russian T-90s, which broke through and captured Chuhuiv, and the main highway southeast of Kharkiv. In the north of Luhansk Oblast, Russian forces advanced almost unopposed besides scattered infantry resistance, as Ukrainian forces were ordered to pull back. Much of their forces were sent to reinforce defences in the south of Donetsk Oblast, in preparation of a Russian advance to capture Mariupol and the Azov coast.
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a press conference in the White House alongside Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, in which Kerry condemned the Russian invasion. Hagel announced that US forces worldwide had been placed on heightened alert, and briefed journalists about the known military movements Russia was making. According to the press conference, NATO had predicted a ground invasion may be possible during the mobilisation of Russian forces, but the Pentagon had dismissed it as too unlikely. It appeared that Putin was aware of this, and had effectively called the West’s bluff. No-one knew how far he would go. President Obama also spoke from the West Wing. He too condemned the Russian actions, and assured the American people that the military would take all necessary measures to preserve peace and protect its European allies. The aircraft carriers Dwight D. Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush were also deployed to Europe alongside their escorting assortment of warships. Many Republicans blamed the foreign policy of President Obama for encouraging Putin’s invasion, by not adopting a firmer line against him. Polls showed a majority of Americans in agreement. Unknown to the public at the time, but the National Reconnaissance Office was reporting to the Pentagon that upwards of at least 80,000 Russian troops were either in Ukraine or deploying near the border.
Stock markets in Europe suffered a major shock, as a full scale war erupted on the continent for the first time since the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. In Poland and the Baltic States, all military leaves were cancelled and forces placed on high alert. The militaries of Latvia and Estonia both reported record levels of recruitment in the days following the war, while the United States announced new funding to build a pair of air bases in Estonia.
In the United Kingdom, the invasion happened on the same day as the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, and predictably dominated the talks. Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition and Labour Party Ed Miliband showed solidarity in condemning the Russian invasion, and the usual violent arguing that made the sessions so famous was nowhere to be seen. The announcement of British troops being deployed to Europe was welcomed, as was the confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that an additional £8 billion was being injected. Some criticised the additional funds as too little, too late, and that defence cuts had been responsible for encouraging Putin to act.
At an emergency session of the United Nations, China proved to be the biggest backer of Russia, claiming that it had legitimate interests in Ukraine after a "resurgence of fascism" which had been seen amongst some protestors following the revolution. The United States criticised the Chinese position, and little was achieved.
March 20, 2014
As the Battle of Kharkiv dragged on, a Russian armoured offensive managed to dislodge defences from the cathedral and force the defenders to withdraw to the railway network in the east, leaving half the city in Russian hands. An armoured attack from the northwest to encircle the defenders was beaten back with heavy losses, after five Russian T-72s were knocked out. Ukrainian engineers destroyed much of the railways to deny it to the Russians. Extra pressure was put on the Ukrainians by fire from the 9th Guards Artillery Brigade. Many units began to fall back towards a staging area at Poltava. The Russian Black Sea Fleet also mobilised and conducted attacks on the remains of the Ukrainian Navy, sinking several ships with no losses of its own.
Russian bombing of eastern Ukraine intensified, with civilian casualties in the thousands, and many thousands of refugees began to flood into Poland, Moldova, and Romania. Major road arteries were jammed with fleeing cars, with neighbouring governments opening their borders to the refugees. The countryside of some areas of Poland and Romania became blanketed with makeshift tents, as the government tried to care for all the refugees. Local people received commendation for their generosity to their neighbours.
In Britain, around 1,000 Ukrainians protested outside the Russian Embassy in Holland Park, London, as well as hundreds more people from various backgrounds. Similar scenes took place in Paris, Washington, and Berlin.
The United States and European Union announced a series of economic sanctions on Russia, while the European Union also announced that it would be writing off two thirds of all debts owed to it by Ukraine.
March 21, 2014
Ukrainian T-64s from the 1st Armoured Brigade were the first to encounter a Russian offensive in the north, targeting the strategic intersection north of Shostka. The T-64s managed to hold off the advance for a brief period before being destroyed by a helicopter attack, allowing the 9th Motorised Rifle Brigade to capture the road intersection unopposed. The first non-Russian national forces were also observed in combat, when the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade from the Uzbekistan Ground Forces spearheaded an attack on Izyum, confirming the involvement of CSTO. The CSTO forces’ main mission was at this point to control all territory east of Highway M03. However, the incursions in the north implied that they intended to capture everything east of the Dnieper. This came as a complete surprise to the West, which believed that the invasion was only to occupy the southeast.
The Battle of Kharkiv continued, with additional Ukrainian forces from the 72nd Mechanised Brigade moving in to reinforce while Russia stepped up its air campaign against the city, flattening entire neighbourhoods in what was described as a humanitarian catastrophe. BBC broadcasts from the ruins of the city streets shocked the world, with corpses lying in the streets. Ukrainian infantry made several counterattacks, retaking areas of the Fruzensky District while fighting went on in the Kharkiv Metro, allowing both sides to conduct raids behind enemy lines. The fighting appeared to have reached a practical stalemate with few gains, but Russian units outside the city were gradually encircling it.
The 810th Marine Brigade of the Russian Naval Infantry made an amphibious landing on the Sea of Azov coast in southeast Ukraine, while ground forces moved in from Russia to capture Mariupol. The Russian marines moved on Melitopol, backed up by heavy bombing. Ukrainian defences were mostly infantry, which lacked enough anti-armour equipment to deal with the BMPs or BTRs rolling towards the city. Much of the defence simply melted away, as Ukrainian troops headed north, expecting to find friendly forces in or around the major cities. Russian Il-76s soon landed at the aerodrome in Melitopol to ferry in reinforcements. Efforts to create the corridor to Crimea appeared to be nearing completion.
Casualties in just three days of war had quickly mounted, with some estimates placing 1,000 dead on the Ukrainian side and around 400 for the Russians. Estimations on the number of civilian casualties were at over 7,500.
According to sources within the Belarussian government, there was a significant argument about whether or not Belarus should enter the war, with the government apparently opposed. The Russian Ambassador had been seen visiting the President numerous times, and international fears erupted that a wider war could begin if Belarus joined. Anti-war protests begin to take place in cities across Belarus, with the government doing surprisingly little to disperse them.
March 22, 2014
In the north of Ukraine, the 19th and 136th Motor Rifle Brigades attacked the city of Sumy, which was mostly defended by Ukrainian infantry and civilian militias. Russian APCs were soon able to get a foothold and with heavy fighting penetrated deeper into the city, scattering the largely disorganised civilian militia. The first Kazakh forces involved in the war were deployed when Su-25s from the 602nd Air Base bombed military targets on the highway south of Shostka. Kazakh forces later that day spearheaded an advance into northern Ukraine with the 3rd Mechanised Division and 3rd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade advancing down Highway M02 unopposed, before being ambushed by anti-armour teams which knocked out four Kazakh BMP-2s. But at least 30 Kazakh T-72s took part in an operation to capture Konotop Air Base, which quickly succeeded and allowed Russian transports to fly in further reinforcements. The 3rd Mechanised Division then took up defensive positions around Konotop, as the city of 90,000 people surrendered without a fight, encouraged by its mayor who appealed to the inhabitants to accept the inevitable rather than die. Street protests against the occupiers still took place, with the same level of violence as the Euromaiden.
In nearby Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces were dislodged from the city centre and forced to withdraw further south, their territory shrinking as more Russian forces moved into the battered city. An airstrike destroyed a tower block suspected of harbouring snipers, killing 462 civilians. Ukrainian engineers began using explosives to create makeshift trenches as last ditch static lines of defence against Russian advances. Up to 5,000 civilians in the city were believed to have died in just a few days of war.
In southern Ukraine, additional forces which had captured Melitopol began moving west towards Kakhovka. Much of the Ukrainian defences in the region were crumbling, as Russian forces captured virtually everything east of the Dnieper in the south. The 28th Guards Mechanised Brigade attempted a counteroffensive, striking south to recapture Vasylivka and hopefully split the forces in the south into two. The 28th had some success as they come up against scattered infantry units, and managed to enter Vasylivka. But they had no air cover, and Russian Mi-24s picked them off one by one before routing the remaining forces. Hours later, what remained of the Ukrainian forces stationed in Kherson Oblast were ordered across the Dnieper, to relative safety.
President Obama announced that he had authorised the US military to share intelligence with Ukraine, and that advisors were being sent in to help train new Ukrainian recruits. The old Cold War tactic of brinkmanship seemed to be returning, with the West unwilling to show the same weakness that encouraged the invasion. Russia accused the West of provoking wider hostilities, and in retaliation threatened to cut off all oil supplies to NATO members. Stock exchanges hit new lows, with emergency measures put in place to prevent an economic crash.
In Cincinnati, a candlelight vigil was held in the city’s Downtown in a tribute to its sister city of Kharkiv. Many people flew the Ukrainian flag, which was becoming a common sight in the United States out of respect for the resistance the country was putting up.
The Ukraine is doing remarkably well considering... well, everything. I remember that back in April we discussed how half of the Ukrainian army would defect to the Russians in the case of war, and most of the other half would desert. How are they sustaining the fuel for the tanks and the ammo for their troops if they were having difficulties supplying food and pay-checks back then?
OTL flights through Crimean airspace were prohibited by the European Aviation Safety Agency due to the competing claims over airspace, and in a scenario were wider parts of Ukraine are directly taken over (rather than just a ground-level "insurgency"), I'd expect that the only commercial flights over eastern Ukraine would be Russian ones.
And even with just the insurgency (which was not expected to have extensive AA equipment), low-level flights were stopped. With a full on invasion (that includes an air superiority campaign), it would be pretty unlikely for there to be no official action on it.
And even in lieu of official action, no sane airline would fly through a warzone between two modern countries with large airforces and missile equipment. You can't really parallel it with the OTL situation where they expected mostly a few people with Kalashnikov's and limited heavy weaponry. Here you have the full presence of one of the largest and best-equipped armies in the world, as well as a large airforce on high alert. BA would have an outright criminal liability here.
I think the Russians would NOT shoot down a plane. They have IFF and most likely know how to use it.