World

Polish PM makes border crossing pledge after blockades by farmers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the actions were hampering the transport of military supplies to forces on the front line.

A Polish border guard gives instructions as drivers wait to cross the border into Ukraine at Medyka
A Polish border guard gives instructions as drivers wait to cross the border into Ukraine at Medyka A Polish border guard gives instructions as drivers wait to cross the border into Ukraine at Medyka (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said border crossings with Ukraine are being added to a list of critical infrastructure to ensure that all military and humanitarian aid can reach the country without any delays.

Mr Tusk spoke following protests by Polish farmers that have included border blockades and the spilling of Ukrainian grain from freight trains at a Polish border crossing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnky had said on Wednesday that the blockade was hampering the transport of military supplies to Ukrainian forces on the front line.

“The fate of Ukraine is hanging in the balance and I don’t need to convince anyone that this means that our fate is also hanging in the balance,” said Mr Tusk, whose country is located along Nato’s eastern flank and borders Ukraine.

Poland is one of the main staging posts for Western military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Poland has donated many of its own weapons but transports from other Nato countries often pass through the large central European nation.

Mr Tusk disputed that any military equipment intended for Ukraine was being held up.

However, he said border crossings and sections of roads and railway tracks will now be added to a list of critical infrastructure to ensure “a 100% guarantee that military and humanitarian aid will reach the Ukrainian side without any delays”.

Polish farmers, like farmers across Europe, have been in revolt against Ukrainian food that has been entering the European Union market. They say the cheaper produce is driving down prices.

They have also protested against EU climate policies which they say will increase their costs and hurt their bottom line.

Following protests in Poland this week, Mr Zelensky publicly appealed to Mr Tusk for a meeting of the two governments at their joint border ahead of the second anniversary on Saturday of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Tusk, however, said the two governments should wait until a previously scheduled March 28 meeting in Warsaw, arguing Poland’s solidarity for Ukraine is strong and there is no need for symbolic gestures.

He also stressed he was working to address the legitimate concerns of Polish farmers and to help Brussels and Kyiv understand their point of view.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it was concerned by anti-Ukrainian slogans and banners praising Russian President Vladimir Putin at recent farmers’ blockades.

One tractor at a protest this week in the southern region of Silesia carried a Soviet flag and a banner that said: “Putin, put things in order with Ukraine, Brussels, and our rulers.”

Mr Tusk said: “Any such attack in public space or support for Putin’s narrative is high treason and I hope that both protesters and all services will draw the right conclusions from it.

“We will not tolerate it in any way.”