Espreso. Global

Poles block, Russians applaud: what is really happening at the Polish-Ukrainian border

26 November, 2023 Sunday

The border blockade is not an economic problem, but a political one, and it affects Ukraine's defense capabilities. We need to act immediately

A driver died on the Polish-Ukrainian border. This is the second death on the border between the countries.

How many people are blocking the border? Very few. 50-60 people. That's 10 on each of 4 roads. I was driving back from a business trip from Poland to Ukraine and saw these blockers myself. One of my friends answered the question, "How long does it take for the Polish authorities to put things in order at the border?" "It's very simple. 15 minutes. If only there were a will." But there is no will. On the contrary, Polish farmers are also going to join the blockade. And why do the farmers want to? All the issues they raised have actually been resolved. Ukrainian grain goes through Poland exclusively in transit. Ukrainian grain is limited in sales in Poland. Polish farmers have received huge subsidies from both their government and the European Union. So, this is a purely political issue that there is no desire to resolve.

There is no economic logic in the blockade. After all, Ukraine has increased its imports of products from Poland by 25%, and Ukraine is the 8th largest importer of Polish products, so this blockade is also harmful to the Polish economy. 

But why doesn't the Polish government negotiate with the blockers? They themselves said that they would only negotiate with Donald Tusk, who is to be the next prime minister.

What has happened in Polish politics? President Duda instructed Morawiecki's ruling party to form the government, not the coalition that won and decided that Donald Tusk would be the head of the government. Duda appointed Morawiecki as prime minister. But Morawiecki cannot get a vote of confidence in the Sejm. To get it, you need to have a majority of votes, and the Polish Law and Justice party does not have such a majority. So, now, after Morawiecki fails to get a vote of confidence, Duda will appoint Tusk, who will go back to parliament and ask for a vote of confidence. In short, this is a huge and long process, and God willing, it will be completed by mid- or even late December.

Why, then, are the protesters appealing to Tusk? Because it is politics. And this gives Morawiecki and Duda the right and opportunity not to conduct any negotiations with the protesters, because they do not address them and do not ask them to do so, but address Tusk. Why do they turn to Tusk? Because Tusk explicitly stated in his program that the new Polish government will pursue a tough pro-Ukrainian policy, it will increase arms supplies, increase assistance to Ukrainian refugees, defend Ukraine's interests during negotiations on joining the European Union... Now imagine: Tusk becomes prime minister, and instead of starting his work with a positive agenda, instead of starting his work with assistance to Ukraine and positive news for Ukraine, he will immediately deal with the negative - negotiations on blocking the border. This is the real political purpose of the blockade.

Who initiated the blockade of the Polish border? There is also a political trace here. The pro-Russian political bloc Confederation is among those who support the protesters the most, and this is no accident. The Confederation party has long held a pro-Russian position, and there are many tracks in the queues of Ukrainian vehicles that carry liquefied gas to Ukraine. We are dependent on liquefied gas: 25% of it we get through Poland, 10% we produce ourselves. Poland and Ukraine are among the five countries that are the largest consumers of liquefied gas. What does this lead to? Obviously, it leads to higher prices for Ukrainian fuels. Liquefied gas is getting more expensive. So is gasoline. We all expect possible shelling of the energy infrastructure, and it seems that those who block fuel for Ukraine at the Ukrainian-Polish border are working to trap us and make our energy consumption impossible.

But there is an equally important issue facing Ukraine. Now, if you travel by car from Lviv to Kyiv, you will often see huge convoys of trucks, carrying various products or goods. Among them, trucks carrying weapons or parts for Ukrainian weapons stand out, often accompanied by Ukrainian police cars, but it happens that they simply get lost in this stream of vehicles, and it is virtually impossible to track the supply of weapons to Ukraine. Now the protesters are saying that they are letting the weapons through: this means that there are only vehicles with weapons on the Ukrainian-Polish road, and obviously the Russians can watch. These so-called protesters are checking documents, inspecting the car and what exactly they are carrying... Russian intelligence could only dream of having access to such information about the weapons being delivered to Ukraine. This is a very big problem.

I am now receiving calls from many military personnel asking me to help them transport certain vehicles. Because weapons can be different. For example, in order to assemble drones or electronic warfare systems in Ukraine, which suppress enemy drones and thus save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, you need to get spare parts from Europe and Asia, and one way or another, they all go through Poland. And now the cars with these boards are also on the border. In fact, much of Ukraine's military production is blocked. The supply of spare parts for those machines that produce military goods at Ukrainian enterprises is also blocked. All this is, in fact, a huge national security problem. We need to speak up about this problem.

What should Volodymyr Zelenskyy do in this situation? Obviously, first of all, he should address President Duda and initiate a joint meeting of the National Security Council of Ukraine and the National Security Council of Poland. Only at such a joint meeting can we explain how important and threatening this blockade is, how it makes it impossible to protect us from the Russian aggressor. But for some reason, this is not done. If the Polish side refused to hold such talks, then a meeting of the newly created NATO-Ukraine Council could be initiated. Because this is not just a matter of food, it is a matter of national security and defense. But this is not being done either. Therefore, it is the task of every Ukrainian politician, every Ukrainian citizen living abroad, journalists, and all concerned people to do everything to explain to Ukrainian and Polish society, and to the EU countries what is really happening on the Ukrainian-Polish border.

I have sent an appeal to the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba regarding the blocking of the Ukrainian-Polish and Ukrainian-Slovak borders. I asked the respected ministers what the Ukrainian authorities are doing to unblock the border.

In particular, I am interested in answers: how many protesters are blocking the movement of Ukrainian transport, what associations are these, what are the reasons for the blocking? I am also interested in whether, during the preparation and adoption of the EU Council's decision in the spring of 2023 to temporarily cancel permits for access to the transportation market for Ukrainian carriers, the governments of Poland and Slovakia participated in this process? Did they raise any objections, because it seems to me that they did not... 

The organizers of the blockade of the Polish border claim that Ukrainian carriers provide freight transportation services between individual EU countries, not just to and from Ukraine. Does the Ministry have any information about this practice, and have the EU states informed the Ukrainian government about such actions of Ukrainian carriers? As far as I know, the information about all these actions of Ukrainian carriers is actually fictitious: Ukrainians are strictly following the law. There are other questions as well. I hope for answers to them and the government's response to the situation.


About the author. Mykola Kniazhytskyi, journalist, deputy of the Ukrainian parliament

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

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