Yet again, Zelenskiy is faced with a crisis even worse than all the previous ones. Every day that the standoff continues, and every report of another Russian plan to attack Ukraine are blows to its economy, weakening the hryvnia, pushing up interest rates on loans, and sowing panic among the public. Confronted with all of this, Zelenskiy has decided not to leave Ukraine’s fate in the hands of its Western allies by meekly awaiting help, but criticizes them constantly, reproaches them for inaction, and asks for concrete measures.

When the West threatens Russia with sanctions in the event of aggression, Zelenskiy demands preventative measures, fearing a repeat of the events of 2014, when Russian forces had occupied Crimea before there was anything anyone could do about it. When Western media describe an imminent invasion, the Ukrainian government all but denies it, and calls for everyone to remain calm. When Moscow says there is no point in talking to Kyiv, as it’s merely a puppet of the West, Zelenskiy continues to insist on direct negotiations with Putin.

The president still leads the polls, but the gap between him and his rivals is inexorably decreasing. What’s more, his attempts to quell panic are only making it worse: just like all former Soviet citizens, Ukrainians are used to interpreting assurances from the authorities as confirming their worst fears.

The overall instability could not fail to impact on the president’s Servant of the People party. Recently, it has been unable to get the required number of votes for its initiatives, reducing the president’s parliamentary majority to a mere formality. There’s no obvious solution: if Zelenskiy puts pressure on the Servant of the People deputies, they could desert en masse to join Razumkov, the party’s former leader.

The external threat to Ukraine is exacerbating Zelenskiy’s domestic problems, and vice versa. The result is that the president has become an inconvenient figure for both East and West. Ukraine’s Western allies would prefer to see a more systematic and predictable leader in his place — someone like Poroshenko — who would have heeded their warnings graciously, thanked them for their help, and adhered strictly to the agenda set by those allies.

Moscow, meanwhile, would like to see an end to Ukraine’s protracted drift toward the West and the advent of an if not openly pro-Russian leader, à la Medvedchuk or Boyko, then at least a moderate politician, à la Razumkov. Then the Kremlin would spare no expense to buy their loyalty.

Zelenskiy may be an inconvenient leader for everyone else, but that’s what makes him a suitable leader for today’s Ukraine, since the place it occupies on the map is so inconvenient for everyone. Many would dearly love to wash their hands of it, but it’s not possible. So Zelenskiy remains the most popular politician, even though it would seem he has lost everything he had to lose. Ukrainian society doesn’t always know what it wants, and is intuitively reluctant to make a definitive choice in favor of East or West. Ukrainians believe the world owes them, and they are not ready to compromise.

Zelenskiy does not have many options. He can either stick to his guns in the hope of a change of fortune and the return of his popularity (or at least the failure of the opposition), or he can hold a new referendum of trust in the form of snap parliamentary or presidential elections. Either way, the Ukrainian leader cannot be written off just yet.

This article was first published by the Carnegie Moscow Center.