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Ukrainian haulers urge Zelensky, EU's von der Leyen to help end blockade at Polish border

24.11.2023 18:00
Two Ukrainian organisations have appealed to Ukraine's president and the chief of the European Union's executive Commission to help unblock the border with Poland, amid an ongoing protest by Polish truck drivers and farmers.   
Truckers queuing at the blocked Medyka checkpoint on Polands border with Ukraine, on November 23, 2023.
Truckers queuing at the blocked Medyka checkpoint on Poland's border with Ukraine, on November 23, 2023. PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

The Federation of Employers of Ukraine (FEU) and the Association of International Road Carriers of Ukraine issued a letter to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, according to news outlets.

The two organisations wrote that the blockade of border checkpoints by Polish truckers and farmers had already cost Ukrainian haulers over EUR 400 million, public broadcaster Polish Radio's IAR news agency reported.

Overall, Ukrainian exporters stand to lose billions of euros over the Polish protest, the letter added.

The FEU and the Ukrainian Association of International Carriers appealed to Zelensky to meet with the Polish president to discuss the matter, adding that the blockade could endanger shipments that are vital for Ukraine's national security, the IAR news agency reported.

They added that the demands of the Polish protesters "breach Poland's obligations" arising from international treaties and represent an "interference in Ukraine's internal affairs."

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that his infrastructure minister would take steps to help resolve the protest by Polish transport companies, and was already "in talks with the interested parties," the IAR news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Serhiy Derkach said late on Thursday that Kyiv was preparing to evacuate the 3,000 Ukrainian truckers stuck in Poland, the Reuters news agency reported.

Derkach said on Facebook that the Ukrainian government had "run out of time to agree on compromises" and would "evacuate everyone who expresses such a desire."

Ukraine had sent a formal diplomatic note to Poland, urging swift measures to unblock the border between the two countries, the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, said on Thursday. 

Two Ukrainian truckers have died in their vehicles since the beginning of the blockade, according to the Ukrainian Association of International Carriers.

The exact cause of their deaths is unknown, though Polish media have cited police as saying one of them was not connected to the protests, Reuters reported.

Polish truckers, farmers block Ukraine border

Meanwhile, Polish farmers on Thursday blocked the Medyka border checkpoint with Ukraine, demanding subsidies on wheat and state-backed loans amid an influx of Ukrainian grain, Polish media reported. 

Protesters said they would block trucks from reaching the checkpoint between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day until Sunday, the IAR news agency reported.

The farmers want the government to subsidise the prices of wheat, extend state-backed loans due to the influx of grain from Ukraine, and keep the farm tax rates unchanged, according to news outlets.

On November 6, Polish truck drivers launched a blockade of the Hrebenne, Dorohusk and Korczowa checkpoints, demanding that the European Union reinstate permits for Ukrainian transport companies entering the bloc.

On Thursday, Polish transport companies announced that the protest at the Dorohusk checkpoint would be extended until February 1, Ukraine's Ukrinform news agency reported.

The Polish protests coincide with concerns in Ukraine that the European Union may not agree next month to launch formal accession talks for it to join the 27-member bloc, a key objective for Kyiv, according to Reuters.

It added that prolonged protests and the resulting disruption to trade could affect Ukraine's fragile, wartime economy.

The price of motor vehicle gas (LPG), which is widely used to fuel cars, has already surged 30 percent due to the protests, according to an industry analyst cited by Reuters.

Friday is day 639 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, starting the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II.


Source: IAR, Reuters, Ukrinform