On February 23, Russia launched a war against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his parliament (Rada) could speed up measures to ensure continuity of government, a need made more urgent by the risk that Kyiv could soon fall.

Zelensky may still underestimate the dangers. Despite reports that government resettlement plans have been discussed with the United States, an associate of Zelensky reportedly said that the president “not run away of its own capital.” Yet forces in Russia and Belarus are ready to lunge south on both sides of the Dnipro River and encircle Kiev in a matter of days.

Ukrainian Armed Forces bombing report of various towns and villages across the country, including Boryspil airport, near the capital. Other attempts to destabilize Ukraine were underway before, such as pro-Russian “demonstrations” in Kiev and almost relentless cyberattacks against Ukrainian government institutions and banks.

Zelensky’s reluctance for weeks to warn Ukrainians of the severity of the threat could leave more citizens, especially in major cities, vulnerable to being trapped behind an invading force. The delay may also help Russian forces capture more of the country’s governmental capacity intact.

If Zelensky were to remain in Kiev and be captured, it could deal a psychological blow to Ukrainian morale and diminish their will to resist. More important still is the survival of the presidency and the legislative and judicial powers. This may require rapid and large-scale relocation to western Ukraine and support from Poland. Reconstituting any lost leadership capacity might require the approval of the Rada to bolster its legitimacy.

A government collapse could hamper the organization and functioning of an insurgency based in the mountains of western Ukraine, and the willingness of others to support it.

Continued rapid government collapse may explain Russia’s apparent early strategyshock and awe” attacks on Kyiv and other cities, and his announced plan to murder and arrest Ukrainian personalities. If Zelensky were captured, Russian authorities might not kill him as they did Prime Minister Imre Nagy after Soviet tanks arrived in Hungary in 1956, but the Kremlin might pressure him and embarrass him.

To reduce these risks, Ukrainian leaders could accelerate preparations to ensure continuity of government. Some steps are undoubtedly underway but out of public view.

Leaders could take steps to clarify the presidential line of succession beyond a few senior leaders. Authority passed to the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada in 2014 when President Viktor Yanukovych fled from office. A deep bench provides more resilience. Below the president and vice president, the U.S. line of succession includes 17 legislative leaders and cabinet secretaries. A surviving Rada could validate the succession measures.

At the same time, a “shadow government” could be created in multiple relocations, and let it practice exercising control over essential functions. President George W. Bush established a shadow government after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Top leaders from every government agency could be selected for emergency relocation.

The possible development by the Ukrainian government of a mix of dispersed and reinforced relocation capacities in western Ukraine to ensure resilience and redundancy could also be useful. Camouflage, concealment and mobility of resources above ground could reduce the risk of air attack.

An agreement with Poland on relocation could be concluded. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the central bank could immediately move to Warsaw. It provides access to foreign embassies, banks and the media. Przemysl, just inside the Polish border, could accommodate personnel and logistics for other operations in Lviv, Ukraine.

Internet and shortwave broadcasting capabilities could be implemented at relocation sites. Informing and rallying Ukrainians could be essential for effective governance. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other Western broadcasters could help.

Locations in the Carpathian Mountains could become bases for government operations. The Bukovel ski resort, for example, has accommodation and road and helicopter access. The caves could allow for hardened operations and safe storage.

The government could also begin to prepare for mass casualties and large numbers of displaced persons and refugees. Humanitarian aid to refugees is being set up in Poland, with the help of the American army.

Continuity operations differ from those aimed at supporting an insurgency but could facilitate the political leadership that is essential to it. Civilian resources for strategic communications could transmit information on the activities of the occupying forces and instructions for civil action. They could also help document and disseminate information about repression in occupied areas.

The time is almost too late, but Ukrainian leaders could move quickly to relocate essential functions and plan for potential disruptions to leadership and ability to govern. The West has extensive experience with continuity issues and could offer advice and material support.

William Courtney, Deputy Principal Researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, served as U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Georgia, and in U.S.-USSR negotiations to implement the Treaty of nuclear test ban. Khrystyna Holynska is an associate policy researcher at RAND, a Ph.D. student at Pardee RAND Graduate School, and a visiting professor at the Kyiv School of Economics.