After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused some EU member states of helping Russian President Vladimir Putin with their grain embargoes — a clear reference to Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia — Poland has reacted with outrage, including withdrawing military support for Ukraine.
According to Polish news outlet TVP, Zelensky said that it was “alarming to see how some in Europe play out solidarity in a political theater – making a thriller from the grain. They may seem to play their own role but in fact, they are helping set the stage for a Moscow actor.”
Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, was summoned to the Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry to receive a note of protest from Poland regarding remarks made during the UN General Assembly. Although Zelensky did not specifically mention Poland, it was clear which countries he had alluded to.
Far more notable in terms of geopolitics, however, is the fact that Poland also announced it will withdraw military support for Ukraine to focus on rebuilding its own defenses.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during an appearance on Polish television channel Polsat. “If you don’t want to be on the defensive, you have to have something to defend yourself with,” he added.
While Morawiecki made no mention of Zelensky’s statements at the UN, tensions have been simmering between the two countries for some time now over a range of issues.
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Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Paweł Jabłoński, conveyed to the Ukrainian ambassador that Zelensky’s remarks were not justified with regard to Poland, since Poles have been especially active in helping Ukraine since the start of the war. He also told the Ukrainian ambassador that taking Poland to international tribunals is not the right way to resolve conflicts between Ukraine and Poland and will not be effective.
Jabłoński additionally expressed concern at the way Ukrainian officials have been pushing a one-sided interpretation of the problem regarding the export of Ukrainian grain to neighboring states. He also said Poland expected that Ukraine’s public pronouncements would reflect the reality of Polish-Ukrainian relations, taking into account the unprecedented help Ukraine has received from Poland and its people.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Trade Minister Taras Kachka told Polish commercial radio RMF FM that any effort to block Polish fruit and vegetable exports would be a measure of last resort. His remarks signaled that Ukraine was walking back its position from just a day earlier when Kachka signaled that a ban on Polish fruit and vegetables was imminent.
In his interview, Kachka adopted a conciliatory posture, saying that Ukraine was willing to control its export of grain to allow Poland to decide how much of the grain it would allow onto its market.
The softening of Ukraine’s stance came in the wake of remarks made by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who warned Ukraine on Wednesday that if it escalated the conflict over trade, Poland would widen the embargo to include other Ukrainian agricultural products apart from grain.