Ukraine's Zelenskiy asks Polish leaders for talks over farmer protest


  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: Polish farmers protest over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, grievances shared by farmers across Europe and against the import of agricultural produce and food products from Ukraine, as they gather with tractors near Sulechow, Poland, February 20, 2024. Wladyslaw Czulak/Agencja Wyborcza.pl via REUTERS

WARSAW/KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on Poland's leaders and European Union officials to come to the Polish-Ukrainian border for talks over repeated blockades by Polish farmers angry at what they say is unfair competition from Kyiv.

Polish Farmers staged a major day of protest on Tuesday, blocking almost all traffic on the border with Ukraine, angering Kyiv, in an escalation from previous demonstrations.

Warsaw has been a staunch supporter of Kyiv in its fight to repel a full-scale Russian invasion launched in 2022, but protests from farmers complaining of unfair competition have strained ties.

"We have had enough misunderstanding. We should not humiliate each other, we should not humiliate either Ukrainian or Polish farmers. We need unity. We need solutions – between us, Ukraine and Poland, and at the level of the whole of Europe," Zelenskiy said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the offices of Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk or President Andrzej Duda.

Zelenskiy added Ukraine could not accept the appearance of slogans supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the protests, after one such banner was displayed on Tuesday.

INVESTIGATION

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.

Poland's foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it "notes with the greatest concern the appearance of anti-Ukrainian slogans and slogans praising Vladimir Putin and the war he is waging during the recent agricultural blockades."

"We believe that this is an attempt to take over the agricultural protest movement by extreme and irresponsible groups, perhaps under the influence of Russian agents."

Adrian Wawrzyniak, a spokesperson for the Solidarity farmers' union, said the banner was unacceptable and rejected the suggestion Russian agents could be trying to influence the protest movement.

He blamed a person unrelated to the union for the banner.

Farmers across Europe have been demonstrating against constraints placed on them by European Union measures to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from abroad, particularly Ukraine.

Poland's Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski told reporters the government had invited farmers for talks on Monday, while farmers said the government should come to them.

Polish farmers blocked eight major roads on Wednesday. Police said protests continued at border crossings to Ukraine in Medyka and Korczowa, but passenger traffic was smooth and some trucks were also being let through.

(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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