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Polish leader makes veiled threat to Ukraine

President Duda reminded Kiev about Warsaw’s role in military aid amid the row over grain

Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023. ©  Timothy A. Clary / AFP

Polish President Andrzej Duda has argued that Kiev should not forget the crucial role Poland plays in Western military aid to Ukraine. The veiled threat came after cash-strapped Ukraine launched legal action against Warsaw over Poland’s embargo on the imports of Ukrainian grain. 

“It would be good for Ukraine to remember that it receives help from us and to remember that we are also a transit country to Ukraine,” Duda told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. 

Speaking about the need to protect Poland’s domestic markets from the influx of Ukrainian grain, Duda compared the neighboring country to “a drowning person [who] is extremely dangerous because he can pull you to the depths.”

The Polish president said Warsaw had a duty to defend itself against businessmen who “would like to sell grain as quickly as possible at the lowest possible cost.”

Last week, Poland extended its temporary ban on Ukrainian grain, despite the European Commission lifting bloc-wide restrictions. “We will do it because it is in the interest of the Polish farmer,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday.

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Kiev responded by suing Poland, as well as Hungary and Slovakia, and alleging that the embargoes imposed by the three countries were in violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. “It is fundamentally important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban the import of Ukrainian goods,” Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Sviridenko said in a statement.

Poland has become an important logistical hub for Western military aid to Ukraine and the transit route for many foreign heads of state, who visited Kiev since Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring country in February 2022. Poland is also a training ground for Ukrainian troops, who learn how to operate foreign heavy weapons, including the German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

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