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26 Feb, 2024 08:25

Russia ‘obviously’ behind protests in Poland – Ukraine

Thousands are working to undermine Western support for Kiev, top officials have claimed
Russia ‘obviously’ behind protests in Poland – Ukraine

The ongoing protests by Polish farmers against Ukrainian imports have an “obvious Russian trace” behind them, Kiev’s foreign minister, Dmitry Kuleba, has claimed.

Polish activists have been demonstrating at the border with Ukraine for months, blocking shipments of grain and other products. The protesters claim the Ukrainian agricultural sector has an unfair advantage.

Kuleba alleged the border crisis is part of a Russian campaign to undermine Western support for Kiev, as he and other senior officials discussed Moscow’s supposed psychological operations at a forum on Sunday.

“In addition to the physical war on our territory, there is an ongoing war for the mind, for the brains of the people,” Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security council, told the audience.

The security official cited Ukrainian estimates of engagements with the alleged “Russian disinformation campaign” on social media, saying that Poland was the second most targeted nation.

“[The Russians] conduct it on an industrial scale. Thousands of people are working on that,” he claimed.

The protests in Poland stem from the EU’s decision in 2022 to lift quotas and tariffs on Ukrainian grain in a bid to support Kiev in its fight with Moscow. The inflow destabilized markets in Eastern Europe, prompting several EU members, including Poland, to ban imports.

Tensions reignited last September, when Brussels declined to endorse continued restrictions. A defiant Warsaw kept its ban on Ukrainian grain imports, but allowed their transit through the country. Protesting farmers say the shipments are still being diverted to the local market. Ukrainians don’t have to work by EU rules, which makes their products cheaper, protesters have argued.

There have been several recent cases of sabotage targeting Ukrainian goods. One such incident saw 160 tons of grain dumped from train cars while being transported to the port of Gdansk, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Aleksandr Kubrakov complained on Sunday, posting photos on social media of the targeted shipment.

“How long will the government and the Polish police allow this vandalism to continue?” he asked.

Member states across the EU have been rocked by demonstrations by agricultural workers. Farmers say rising energy prices and government plans to withdraw various subsidies endanger their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, Polish truck drivers may soon restart their campaigning against Ukrainian competition. Maciej Wronsk, who leads a major transport association, told the media that the industry has yet to see tougher rules promised by the government for Ukrainian carriers.