Polish protesters lift months-long blockade at Ukraine border

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 4:57 AM

KYIV (Reuters) – Polish farmers stopped protesting at the last blocked border crossing with Ukraine on Monday, Kyiv and Warsaw said, suspending a blockade that has dragged on for months and soured bilateral relations.

Ukraine’s farm minister hailed “constructive work” by Poland to lift the blockade in a statement, saying negotiations with Warsaw and industry associations had not been easy but that “the main thing is that we have a result”.

“Fortunately, we have all directions on the border with Poland unblocked,” Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko said, adding that Polish farmers had freed access to the Rava-Ruska crossing.

Trucks had started crossing the border in both directions on Monday morning, he said.

Polish border guard spokesman Andrzej Juzwiak told Reuters access via all crossings to Ukraine was “without hindrance”.

Polish farmers and truckers have blocked border crossings with Ukraine since late autumn last year amid concerns over unfair competition. They have cited government inaction over a loss of business to foreign competitors since Russia’s war on Ukraine, with truckers from Ukraine exempt from seeking permits to cross the Polish border.

Trucks transporting grain products, the central issue that has angered Polish protesters, will still face some restrictions, the Ukrainian Border Service said.

“At the same time, trucks transporting grain crops will not be allowed to enter Poland. This type of cargo can only travel through Poland in transit mode,” the service said via Telegram messaging app.

“I believe that such blockades are a thing of the past,” Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Vasyl Zvarych wrote on Facebook. “Instead of blocking, we will cooperate even more closely.”

The protests drew sharp criticism from Ukrainian decision makers as the tensions on the border escalated in the winter.

Warsaw and Kyiv have been engaged in talks at different levels to try to find a solution, with Ukraine calling upon the European Union to intervene.

In March, Ukraine and Poland hailed progress on agricultural import talks but the deal remained elusive as the countries tried to close the gap between their positions on economic and security interests.

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko, Yuliia Dysa, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Bernadette Baum)