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Ukraine president’s sick leave raises questions

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KIEV, Ukraine — Amid the deepest turmoil since the Orange Revolution, President Viktor Yanukovych’s announcement Thursday that he was taking indefinite sick leave prompted a guessing game among Ukrainians about what was happening to their country.

Debate raged on whether he was just sick or whether he was leaving the limelight in preparation for something, possibly either cracking down or stepping down.

Yanukovych has faced two months of major protests that sometimes paralyze central Kiev and have spread to other cities. The protests started after he backed out of a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union in favor of Russia, but quickly came to encompass a wide array of discontent over corruption, heavy-handed police and dubious courts.

The official line is that the 63-year-old Yanukovych has an acute respiratory illness and a high fever.

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