Poland’s Donald Tusk meets Zelensky in Ukraine amid tensions over food exports

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Polish prime minister Donald Tusk met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on a solidarity visit to Ukraine on Monday as the closest regional ally of Kyiv announced a fresh military aid package and a loan to the war-hit nation.

The leaders met in Kyiv in the latest show of unity between Poland and Ukraine amid growing difference between the two nations over Ukrainian food exports, amplified by protesting truckers on their shared border.

Mr Tusk noted that it was his first visit to a foreign capital since being re-elected prime minister.

He said the leaders reached “an understanding” to resolve through talks any differences between their countries over grain shipments and truck exports.

The war, Mr Tusk said, was a wider struggle between Europe and Russia with repercussions beyond Ukraine and hence a priority for Poland.

“Today, Ukraine is shouldering the security matters of the entire European continent, today Ukraine is paying the huge price of blood for the values that are fundamental to the free world,” Mr Tusk said, adding that “Poland’s security is also at stake in this struggle”.

The Polish leader also met with his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal.

Mr Zelensky said the talks were “very productive” and he had a meaningful conversation with the Polish leader about issues between the two countries.

“There will be a defence package from Poland. And to strengthen our positions, we talked about joint production of weapons, about increasing our capabilities in using Polish equipment and weapons systems,” he said in his nightly address. Poland’s loan will allow Kyiv to buy big-ticket weapons.

The Ukrainian president spoke about political cooperation with Poland. “Of course, we talked in detail about political cooperation. About the fact that all the problems between Ukraine and Poland can be overcome mutually – at the level of our states.”

He said he was confident that “we can overcome the critical situations on the border – the blockade – which significantly undermine solidarity now, and can find pragmatic solutions to any critical situations.”

Mr Tusk’s visit came amid a growing Russian threat to Ukraine’s Nato-member neighbours after it positioned tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil for the first time.

Last week, Belarus’s security council secretary Alexander Volfovich claimed the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus was aimed at deterring aggression from Poland, a Nato member.

Russia ally Belarus, which was used as a launchpad for Russian soldiers invading Ukraine in February 2022, has amended its military doctrine to permit the use of nuclear weapons for the first time, months after its decision to host Vladimir Putin’s nukes sent alarm bells ringing across Europe.

Located on Nato’s eastern flank, Poland has been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies. Warsaw has provided weapons and humanitarian aid, and opened its borders to Ukrainian refugees since Moscow invaded in February 2022.

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