Polish border blockades lifted at all Ukraine crossings

AFP , Monday 29 Apr 2024

Poland's border crossings with Ukraine were all open on Monday, after months of blockades by Polish truckers and farmers protesting what they called unfair competition from Ukrainians.

A Polish border guard
File Photo: A Polish border guard gives instructions as drivers wait to cross the border from Poland into Ukraine in Medyka, Poland. Poland s border crossings with Ukraine were all open on Monday, after months of blockades by Polish truckers and farmers protesting what they called unfair competition from Ukrainians. AFP

 

The end of the farmers' border blockades, originally launched in February, was welcomed by Kyiv, which is in its third year of fighting Russia's invasion.

Disputes over farm imports have strained ties between the neighbors, even as Poland has shown staunch support for Ukraine, with Kyiv warning that blockades could hold up crucial deliveries.

"The traffic through all the border crossings (with Ukraine) is possible," Michal Derus, a spokesman for the tax administration chamber in Poland's Lublin region told AFP after farmers ended the last blockade at the Hrebenne border crossing.

The end of the blockades comes after the authorities in Warsaw last week announced fresh aid to the farmers struggling to sell their produce.

One of the protest leaders, Roman Kondrow, said the farmers had not reached any agreement with the government but had decided to suspend blockades as the situation for Ukrainian forces on the front worsened.

"We cannot let Ukraine lose the war. As farmers, we have decided that we are suspending this protest for this difficult time," Kondrow told AFP.

Ukraine's army leader admitted Sunday that Kyiv's position on the battlefield has worsened after Russian forces captured another village in the east.

In January, Polish truckers unhappy over the competition from Ukrainian truckers, ended their border blockade after two months of interrupting traffic between the countries.

"All trucks are allowed to pass as long as they are not carrying sanctioned goods," Derus added, referring to the Ukrainian grain imports subject to Polish embargo since September.

'Constructive work'
 

The Hrebenne crossing reopened after local authorities declined to extend permission for protests at the checkpoint.

"I did not agree to another protest. The reasons include losses for companies... I understand the farmers, but it cannot be that the residents will suffer," the local mayor Marek Luszczynski told the Polish state news agency PAP.

The authorities in Dorohusk took a similar decision last week, forcing the farmers to end their blockade at the local border crossing.

Ukraine's agriculture minister Mykola Solsky thanked the Polish government for "constructive work on unblocking the border".

"The main thing is that we have a result," Solsky said, adding that the talks between the ministries and farming associations from two countries "will go on".

Ukraine has seen its agriculture sector crippled by Russia's 2022 invasion. Many of its major export routes through the Black Sea have been blocked and much farmland left unusable by warfare.

In a bid to help Kyiv economically, the European Union in 2022 scrapped tariffs on Ukrainian goods transiting the 27-nation bloc by road.

However many Ukrainian cereal exports destined for non-EU countries have accumulated in Poland and elsewhere, undercutting local producers.

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