Ukrainian envoy condemns Polish trucker blockade
Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland, Vassily Zvarych, has accused Polish truckers of playing into Moscow’s hands by imposing a blockade on several border crossings on Monday. The protesting truck drivers have vowed to keep the border effectively shut until Warsaw addresses their complaints.
The truckers promised to let only one truck pass per hour, except for those carrying military or humanitarian aid, or with perishable goods and livestock.
The protestors drew parallels between their action and the recent unrest among Polish farmers, who have repeatedly urged Warsaw to stop the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain imports.
“We’re going to do it the way farmers did – keep protesting until the government acknowledges there is a problem and does something about it,” Jacek Sokol, the owner of a small trucking company and the deputy head of the Committee to Protect Transporters and Transport Employers, the group behind the protests, has said.
The protests promptly drew the attention of Ukrainian officials, with Zvarych condemning the blockade as a “strike in the back” by the Polish.
“The corridors of solidarity between Ukraine and the EU, going through the territory of Poland are under threat,” the diplomat said in a statement posted to social media.
“We call on the Polish protesters to stop the blockade of the border and choose other forms of defending their rights that would not impede movement across the border,” he added, asserting that the protest was actually playing into the hands of the “common enemy” of Kiev and Warsaw – the “Russian terrorists,” as he put it. The truckers’ protest therefore harms not only the interests of the two nations, but all of Europe, he claimed.
The restrictions on the number of Ukrainian-registered trucks entering the EU though Poland and elsewhere were scrapped early in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev. This ultimately resulted in a flood of Ukrainian trucks, with the number of crossings having increased to some 900,000 this year alone, according to Polish media reports. Before the conflict, Ukrainian truckers received an average of 160,000-180,000 permits per year to enter Poland for specific shipments or transit.
Both Warsaw and Brussels have urged the truckers to lift the blockade, but the Polish authorities have insisted they are powerless to do anything while the EU-wide measure remains in effect.
A Der Spiegel report on Friday suggested that the Polish border guards are quietly supporting the protest, given that freight processing times have increased drastically in recent months.
Some EU officials have condemned the protests, branding the Polish truckers “un-European.”
“I totally discourage this kind of behavior of blocking a border. It’s not something very European,” EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean told Politico, adding that officials are working on a solution to the issue.