Ukraine says Poland doing nothing as trucks pile up at border
Bloomberg November 25, 2023
A senior Ukrainian official accused Polish authorities of inaction as blockades staged by protesting truckers at the border cause traffic chaos in which two drivers have died.
Thousands of vehicles have piled up in lines stretching as far as 25 miles as drivers wait in freezing temperatures to cross the border into Ukraine. Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Serhiy Derkach, said the government in Warsaw has stood by as local authorities help the demonstrators, while deliveries of humanitarian aid get snarled.
“This is the reaction of the current government - they say they don’t support protest, but they don’t to anything about it,” Derkach said in an interview on Friday. “It’s an inhumane situation.”
A second Ukrainian driver died on Thursday in the standoff, which has escalated as drivers from Poland and other eastern European Union states decry what they call unfair competition from haulers across the border. They’re demanding that restrictions on the movement of cargo trucks out of Ukraine should be re-imposed after the bloc loosened rules in response to Russia’s invasion.
Poland signaled that Ukraine was to blame. Kyiv has refused to acquiesce to demands by Polish drivers to ease the passage of trucks returning from Ukraine, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Rafal Weber told Bloomberg. He said he’s been in contact with demonstrators to resolve the dispute.
The deadlock adds to simmering tensions between Ukraine and Poland even after Warsaw’s staunch support for Kyiv in its military effort against the Kremlin. Poland’s decision to ban Ukrainian grain imports this year, a response to plunging prices, triggered a volley of accusations between the two governments.
Derkach said three of four crossings for trucks with cargo are now blocked. Polish drivers have refused a compromise solution to add extra lines for empty trucks, he said. The only solution is “cutting off entry” to Ukrainians, he added.
While military hardware is getting through the blockades, Ukraine says humanitarian aid shipments are being disrupted, which can hinder the war effort. Kyiv called on the European Union to help resolve the crisis, sending a letter to the European Commission asking for a monitoring group to be set up on the border.
Ukraine’s envoy to Poland, who confirmed the death of the second driver, responded to the fatality with a demand to Polish authorities to help lift the blockade. Ambassador Vasyl Zvarych urged the government to take action to allay a blockade that’s a “threat to people’s lives and health,” according to a statement on Facebook Thursday.
Trucks are lined up along roads through sparsely populated areas, with many drivers having had no shower for weeks and difficult access to groceries and simple amenities.
“If a person needs to walk three kilometers to a toilet, we believe it’s not healthy in freezing temperatures,” Derkach said.
The commission in Brussels called the standoff “very dire.” It will seek to facilitate talks between Poland, Ukraine and the protesters, a spokesman for the bloc’s executive arm, Adalbert Jahnz, said.
Slovak truckers are weighing whether to join the blockade. The Slovak Hauler’s Union said it’s seeking to cooperate with its Hungarian counterpart on joint action on their border with Ukraine, it said in a statement Thursday. A meeting will be held Saturday.
With assistance from Olesia Safronova, Daniel Hornak and Lyubov Pronina.
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