Ukrainian leader strains for grip as chaos spreads

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KIEV — Ukraine spiraled deeper into crisis Wednesday as the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and several thousand grimly determined protesters — along with their supporters in Russia and Europe — prepared for an extended confrontation over the fate of this fractured country of 46 million.

As measures of the turmoil, the authorities announced a nationwide “anti-terrorist operation” to keep guns and power from “extremist groups” and cashiered the country’s top general, then turned around late in the day and declared that a “truce” had been reached with political leaders of the opposition.

But it was clear that, with their bloody offensive to take back the center of Kiev stalled by a ring of fire — and even the deployment of paratroopers to help protect military bases — the Ukrainian authorities were concerned about maintaining control, particularly in the western part of the country.

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