KYIV, Ukraine — First the fawning phone call, then the embarrassing text messages. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's troubles might be just beginning.
Revelations of how far Zelensky's administration appeared willing to go to please U.S. President Donald Trump are depleting diplomatic capital he needs to end a deadly conflict with Russia, repair the Ukrainian economy and improve his country's corrupt reputation.
Ukraine "clearly didn't win any points from this situation," said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta Center for Political Studies in Kyiv, formerly spelled Kiev. Ukraine "now has to worry about how not to become a toxic partner that Western leaders turn away from."
That's especially important as Zelensky prepares for a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany this month to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where 13,000 people have died in five years of fighting between pro-Moscow separatists and Ukrainian troops.
"Toxic" is a word few Ukrainians would have used a year ago for Zelensky, 41, who before he became president was an actor known for a political sitcom, romantic comedies and self-deprecating charm. The political neophyte renewed hope in long-struggling Ukraine and overwhelmingly won an April election.
Zelensky has been in a different spotlight since Trump asked him to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate hoping to challenge Trump next year. A July 25 phone conversation between the two leaders came to light in September and helped trigger a congressional impeachment inquiry.
Zelensky has repeatedly denied that he caved in to Trump's request and has worked to claw back international legitimacy, while also trying to remain in the good graces of the United States.
Ukraine's chief prosecutor has made what seems to be a gesture to satisfy Trump by announcing a review of past cases involving the founder of a gas firm where Biden's son, Hunter Biden, served on the board.
Zelensky's careful explanation: He was "not involved" in the prosecutor's decision, and any future investigations will be "transparent." Analysts think the Ukrainian leader is trying to keep his options open.
Ukraine depends on international loans to stay solvent and Russian energy to keep warm as autumn winds blow through Kyiv. The country's weakness explains in part why Zelensky seemed eager to please Trump during the summer phone call.
And things took a new downward turn Oct. 3.
Text messages released by Congress showed Zelensky's diplomatic aide, Andriy Yermak, promising to announce that Ukraine would open the investigations Trump wanted in exchange simply for an official White House meeting.
No wrongdoing by the Bidens has been found. Democrats in Congress have said they think Trump held up military aid to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky into digging up dirt on a political rival, which Trump denied.
What looked like Zelensky's expressed willingness to do Trump's bidding has provoked criticism at home.
Some Ukrainian politicians voiced concern that the president would destroy the good will the country had built with both Democrats and Republicans and still needs regardless of who wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
"The president's irresponsible, childish statements throw U.S. bipartisan support into doubt, including both economic and military assistance," said opposition lawmaker Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a former Ukrainian government minister who oversaw efforts to integrate with the West.