Zelenskiy says situation at Poland border has gone 'too far'

Zelenskiy says situation at Poland border has gone 'too far'
Farmers are protesting against what they say is an uncontrolled influx of Ukrainian farm produce that is depressing prices in Poland. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw March 4, 2024

The situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border has gone too far economically and morally, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an address on March 3.

Thousands of trucks are stuck on the border as Polish farmers block border crossings with Ukraine in protest against what they say is an uncontrolled influx of Ukrainian farm produce that is depressing prices in Poland.

Access to the crossings is hindered despite last week’s decision by the Polish government to add the crossings to the list of “critical infrastructure”, after protests became a political flashpoint between Warsaw and Kyiv.

Ukraine says Poland is not doing enough to contain the protests that hurt its economy during wartime. The government in Warsaw, meanwhile, appears sympathetic to the protesting farmers who, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said last week, “must not be the victims of the war”.

“We have one goal – to protect Polish agriculture and the European market from the very unfair and crushing consequences of the decision to fully liberalise trade with Ukraine,” Tusk said last week after a meeting with the leaders of the farmers’ protest.

In his video address posted on social media, Zelensky hinted that Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian aggression – now in its third year – trumps everything else.

"We must finally find a solution to the situation on the Polish border, which has gone beyond both economics and morality long ago,” Zelenskiy.

"It is simply impossible to explain how the hardships of a bleeding country can be used in domestic political struggles,” Zelenskiy also said in a remark pointed at the turmoil that the farmer protests have caused in Poland.

The Tusk government is striving to contain the protests by showing sympathy to farmers’ demands regarding trade with Ukraine as it is facing a double election test in the next three months.

There are local elections in Poland in April in which the parties making up the Tusk-led cabinet will seek to further diminish the standing of the previous ruling party, the populist right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), especially in rural areas.

There also are European elections in Poland (and elsewhere in the EU) in June, campaigning for which will be heavily influenced by the themes of the war in Ukraine and the bloc’s agricultural policy.

Polish farmers are up in arms against the European Union’s flagship climate and environment policy, the Green Deal, painting it as a “death sentence” for Polish farming. Experts say, however, that changes to agricultural production must happen soon or it will wither under the weight of the climate crisis.

Other than in the context of the farmer protests, Poland asserts it stands by Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Poland is the West’s key hub for military help to Ukraine.

Tusk also said last week that the government will look at the apparent problem of agricultural imports from Russia and Belarus.

A report by Ukrainian journalist Mykhailo Tkach claimed last week that Russian and Belarusian trucks carrying farm products are entering Poland unfettered.