Zelensky condemns Polish farmers’ protest as “erosion of solidarity”

Ongoing protests by farmers in Poland against Ukrainian imports are “about politics, not grain”, says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In his view, the farmers’ strike, which has included blocking Poland’s border with Ukraine, shows “an erosion of solidarity” with his country in its fight against Russian aggression.

Farmers this week are again blockading roads around Poland, including in the centres of large cities, as well as the border crossing. They are protesting against imports of agricultural products, especially grain, from Ukraine, which they claim puts pressure on the local market and drives down prices.

Polish farmers, like those in several other European countries, have also demanded changes to the EU’s climate policies, which they believe will force them to reduce production.

On 9 February, farmers in Poland began a 30-day protest, carrying out nationwide roadblocks every few days. Today, the farmers were also joined by hunters, who protested against “imposing ideologically motivated restrictions on hunting and farming”.

In total, more than 200 protests were registered across the country. Local media report that in addition to blockades in some areas, farmers are also burning tyres.

They have banners displayed on their tractors reading “Stop food from Ukrainian Agroholdings”, “No one can feed themselves with a sick ideology”, and “We want to work and not go bankrupt”, show pictures published by journalists on social media.

Tak wygląda teraz protest rolników z Żuław, którzy zablokowali krajową S7-kę w Kmiecinie koło Nowego Dworu Gdańskiego. Słup dymu z palonych opon jest widoczny z kilku kilometrów. Policja prowadzi auta na objazdy drogami lokalnymi, są spore korki. @RadioZET_NEWS pic.twitter.com/jp9FAWFbBx

— Maciej Bąk (@MaciejBk1) February 20, 2024

According to the Ukrainian president, however, Polish farmers’ grievances are not “about grain, but rather about politics”.

“Things that are happening on our western border, the border with Poland, cannot be considered normal or ordinary,” said Zelensky in a video published on Facebook last night. “Only 5% of our agricultural exports pass through the Polish border.”

“We need common decisions, rational decisions, to resolve this situation. Decisions made by us and the Poles, first of all, and by everyone in Europe who cares about the fate of Europe,” he added.

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, meanwhile, told the head of the Polish National Security Bureau (BBN) that the blocking of the border by protesters “is a direct threat to the security of [our] country”.

“Such actions negatively affect our opposition to the common enemy named Russia,” he said, adding that currently six border crossings are blocked, which “impacts Ukraine’s defence capabilities”.

At the end of last year, the border was also blocked by Polish freight carriers and farmers for over two months. That protest was suspended at the beginning of this year following an agreement with the government.

Polish truckers who have been blocking the Ukraine border since November have suspended their protest after signing an agreement with the government.

The blockade has been halted until 1 March while the government seeks to implement the terms of the deal https://t.co/6V1LVHb98w

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 16, 2024

Meanwhile, the Polish agriculture minister, Czesław Siekierski, in a letter to farmers also published yesterday, expressed his support for the protest: “Farmers are protesting for a just cause, maintaining agricultural production determines the country’s food security.”

However, he also warned that “a complete closure of the border could result in the suspension of Polish agricultural exports to Ukraine, which could result in the loss of many jobs”, noting that Poland exported just over €1 billion of such products to Ukraine in 2022.

Siekierski underlined that “regulating agricultural trade with Ukraine is one of the priorities of the agriculture ministry”.

The minister added that Poland had made progress in negotiations with the EU on farmers’ demands, with the European Commission pulling back on some of its policies such as requiring a 50% reduction in the use of plant protection products by farmers.


Szanowni Państwo, Drodzy Rolnicy!
Rolnicze protesty miały już miejsce jesienią 2023 r. i były pochodną błędów podejmowanych przez poprzednio rządzących.
Rolnicy protestują w słusznej sprawie, bo zachowanie produkcji rolnej… pic.twitter.com/HRrKF30PN4

— Ministerstwo Rolnictwa i Rozwoju Wsi (@MRiRW_GOV_PL) February 19, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl


Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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