A new crisis erupted on Monday between kyiv and Warsaw after an incident at the common border where disgruntled Polish farmers blocking crossing points dumped Ukrainian grain on the road destined for the European Union. Poland has opened an investigation, the Polish prosecutor’s office announced early this afternoon. “We are gathering documents, interviewing witnesses and preserving images that will likely constitute key evidence,” Lublin prosecutor’s spokeswoman Agnieszka Kepka said.
This action sparked strong reactions in Ukraine, a country with a strong agricultural tradition that has been facing the Russian invasion for two years and where millions of people died in 1932-1933, during the Great Famine (Holodomor) organized by the Stalinist regime.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Agrarian Policy declared Monday in a press release “strongly denounce” the “deliberate destruction” of grain which “has nothing to do with peaceful protests, whether from a legal or moral point of view “. “We are closely following the investigation into this incident and hope that the perpetrators will be quickly identified and punished,” he added.
Polish farmers stopped a truck carrying Ukrainian grain as it crossed the border on Sunday and dumped its cargo, in protest at what they consider unfair competition from their Ukrainian colleagues. In images shared on social media, we can see piles of grain, sometimes covered with an EU flag, in the middle of a road, as part of demonstrations organized across Poland to protest against the competition from Ukraine and heavy European regulations.
Towards new bans for Ukraine?
Polish police said they were investigating the case. The collected evidence “will be sent today to the Chelm district prosecutor’s office for a criminal law assessment regarding further proceedings in this case,” said local police spokeswoman Ewa Czyz. Poland has been among Ukraine’s biggest supporters since the Russian invasion, but friction over Warsaw’s unilateral ban on grain imports has damaged relations between the allies.
In recent days, authorities in Warsaw have raised the possibility of imposing new import bans on Ukrainian agricultural products to protect their farmers. The European Commission indicated on Monday that it would “continue” to seek “solutions” that would make it possible to preserve “maximum economic support for Ukraine”, ravaged by two years of war.
“Ukrainian farmers pay dearly for their crops, sometimes with their lives”
“We believe that the work should be done not at the border, not in a pressure situation, but by sitting down at the negotiating table,” said Commission spokesperson Olof Gill. “Ukrainian farmers work under constant enemy shelling and suffer huge losses. They pay very dearly for their harvests, sometimes with their lives,” added the Ukrainian ministry. He “invited” Polish producers “to go to Ukraine to see the working conditions” of Ukrainians.
“The lack of reaction from the Polish authorities to the destruction of deliveries will lead to more xenophobia and political violence,” added Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Economy, Taras Katchka. If Warsaw does not react quickly, the “gang” that organized the border blockade will “start killing Ukrainians because they are Ukrainians,” warned Taras Katchka.
A fight from the far right?
Some participants in these farmer protests belong to the Polish far-right and previously took part in organizing the border blockade by Polish truckers at the end of 2023. “It is painful to see Ukrainian grain scattered on the road” , MP Iryna Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook.
Andriï Sadovy, the mayor of Lviv, a large city in western Ukraine close to Poland, judged on Telegram “shameful” the actions carried out, according to him, “by Polish (…) pro-Russian provocateurs”.