The tension between Warsaw and Kiev unleashed by the crisis of trade in agricultural products is in full escalation three weeks before the Polish legislative elections. After Poland, along with Hungary and Slovakia, decided to unilaterally maintain the veto on Ukrainian grain and vegetables after the end of the restrictions agreed with the EU on September 15, the disagreements between the hitherto faithful allies are increasing. On Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced in an interview that his country, one of the main suppliers of weapons to the invaded neighbor, will stop sending them to concentrate on modernizing its own arsenal.
Last minute of the Russia-Ukraine War
The response of the head of the ultraconservative Government of Law and Justice (PiS) confirms that the crisis between the two countries is spilling over beyond trade. Asked if military and humanitarian support to the neighboring country was in question, Morawiecki replied: "We are not supplying any weapons to Ukraine, now we are arming Poland with the most modern weapons." According to the Polish agency PAP, the country already only makes previously agreed deliveries, including those resulting from contracts signed with Ukraine, as government spokesman Piotr Müller has specified.
Poland is the main logistics hub for the distribution of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine from other countries. Morawiecki said the military center in the southeastern city of Rzeszow would continue to function normally.
This week, Müller warned, however, that the temporary protection program for Ukrainian refugees expires in the coming months and there is no intention for now to renew it. "These regulations will simply expire next year," the spokesman said. Poland hosts around 1.3 million Ukrainians who have fled the war. After giving an exemplary reception when the conflict broke out, the Government has been cutting aid to this group to try to respond to the growing voices that questioned it.
The grain crisis erupted in April after weeks of protests by Polish farmers. The countryside and rural areas represent an important fishing ground for PiS, which on October 15 goes to the polls as a favorite in the polls, but without a sufficient majority to govern. Even further to its right, the ultra Confederation party has risen in the polls with a discourse that objects to aid to Ukraine and may hold the key to the next government in Warsaw. The heightened tension between the countries this week comes at a time in the election campaign when PiS is cornered by a corruption scandal over the sale of some 250,000 Polish visas in Asian and African countries.
Poland's unilateral ban in April on the import of Ukrainian agricultural products, which were overwhelming the domestic market and driving down prices, was joined by other border countries, such as Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The European Union, which has the competence of the internal market, intervened by providing aid to farmers in these countries and an agreement to prevent the sale of these products in the countries concerned, in exchange for continuing to allow transit through its territory. This pact expired on September 15 when the Commission considered that the crisis was solved.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia announced, contrary to European legislation, that they would impose unilateral vetoes. Ukraine denounced these countries before the World Trade Organization (WTO) last Monday and threatened to veto Polish products, such as onions, tomatoes, cabbages and apples. Morawiecki warned that he would expand the list of banned Ukrainian products if Kiev escalates the conflict. Ukrainian diplomacy urged Poland to "put emotion aside" and take a "constructive" approach to this dispute.
The diplomatic clash has become more visible and profound in New York, where this week the UN General Assembly is being held. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said from the rostrum in his address to world leaders on Tuesday that "some in Europe represent solidarity in a political theater, turning cereal into a thriller." "It may seem like they play their own roles, but they are helping to set the stage for the Moscow actor," he added. The Polish Foreign Ministry urgently summoned the Ukrainian ambassador in Warsaw to protest these words.
Speaking to Polish media in the same U.S. city, President Andrzej Duda compared Ukraine to a drowning person who endangers those who rescue him. "A drowning person is extremely dangerous, they can pull down and drown the rescuer," he said, adding: "We must act to protect ourselves from the harm that is being done to us, because if the drowning person ... She drowns us, so we won't be able to help her."
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