Poland Ukraine government talks set for March 28 as farmer protests
Poland Ukraine government talks set for March 28 as farmer protests

Poland-Ukraine government talks set for March 28 as farmer protests continue

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s prime minister said on Thursday the Polish and Ukrainian governments would meet in Warsaw on March 28, but did not accept a request by Ukraine’s president for urgent talks on border blockades by Polish farmers.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Wednesday for Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Polish President Andrzej Duda and European Union officials to come to the Ukrainian-Polish border to discuss the protests by farmers angered by what they say is unfair competition from Ukraine.

Zelenskiy made clear he wanted talks before Saturday’s second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I have agreed with the prime minister of Ukraine for a meeting between the two governments, which will take place in Warsaw on March 28, and I hope that by then technical talks will lead to a fruitful meeting,” Tusk told a press conference.

Asked by a reporter whether this meant he was not going to the border for talks, Tusk said he believed he had made himself clear. He offered no direct comment on Zelenskiy’s proposal.

The protests against EU climate policies and imports of agricultural products from outside the bloc, particularly from Ukraine, are supported by many Poles.

This leaves Tusk facing a difficult balancing act as he tries to maintain Poland’s staunch support for Kyiv in its defence against Russia’s invasion while also addressing farmers’ concerns.

Tusk reiterated his support for Kyiv’s war effort, and said joint solutions needed to be found to the problems of farmers complaining of unfair competition since the EU waived customs duties on Ukrainian imports in 2022 because of the war.

He said Poland would include border crossings with Ukraine and certain sections of roads on a list of critical infrastructure to “ensure a 100% guarantee that military aid – equipment, ammunition, humanitarian aid, medical aid – will reach the Ukrainian side without any delays”.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on Tusk’s remarks.

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN POLAND

Kyiv has said the farmer protests, which have included repeated blockades of border crossings with Ukraine, are damaging its fight to repel a Russian invasion.

Zelenskiy said on Wednesday Poland and Ukraine needed unity, and should not humiliate either Ukrainian or Polish farmers. He also said Ukraine could not accept the appearance of slogans supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the protests, after one such banner was displayed on Tuesday.

Poland said it was investigating the display of the pro-Putin banner reading “Putin – sort out Ukraine, Brussels and our government”, close to the Czech border.

On Thursday, Tusk said that any such display of pro-Putin sentiment was “treason” and would not be tolerated.

Farmers continued to demonstrate across Poland on Thursday although on a smaller scale than on Tuesday, a day of mass protest.

Adrian Wawrzyniak, a spokesperson for the Solidarity farmers’ union, said protesters were blocking three crossings with Ukraine although some trucks were being let through. He also said a bridge linking Poland to the Czech Republic was being blocked, as were several roads around the country.

Farmers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other central European countries protested along Czech borders on Thursday, blocking some crossings as they demanded less bureaucracy and changes to EU policy.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Additional reporting by Olena Harmash in Kyiv, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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