Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Zelenskyy invites Poland’s leaders to border to resolve farmers’ protest affecting flow of weapons

WARSAW, Poland — Ukraine’s president on Wednesday invited Poland’s leaders to meet him at their shared border to resolve a blockade by Polish farmers protesting Ukrainian food imports, while Polish authorities voiced concern after slogans praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine appeared at the demonstrations.

The border blockade is hampering the shipment of weapons to Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on social media. He hoped the border meeting could happen before the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it believed that extreme groups were trying to take over the farmers’ protest movement “perhaps under the influence of Russian agents.”

Poland, a member of NATO and the European Union, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, accepting unlimited numbers of refugees and providing Ukraine with weaponry.

Poles, with past oppression by Moscow rooted deeply in generational memory, are largely supportive of Ukraine. But tensions have been growing as Polish farmers blame imports of Ukrainian grain and other food for pushing down prices and harming their livelihoods.

Polish farmers are among farmers across Europe who have protesting competition from Ukraine as well as EU environmental policies, which they say will increase their production costs.

On Tuesday, a tractor at a protest in the southern Polish region of Silesia carried a Soviet flag and a banner that said: “Putin, put things in order with Ukraine, Brussels, and our rulers.” A photograph was published by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Interior Minister Marcin Kierwinski called the banner “scandalous” and said it was immediately secured by police, and prosecutors were investigating.

“There will be no consent to such criminal activities,” he said.

The public promotion of a totalitarian system can be punished with up to three years in prison under Polish law.

The Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said it “notes with the greatest concern the appearance of anti-Ukrainian slogans and slogans praising Vladimir Putin and the war he is waging” during the blockades.

The ministry called on protest organizers “to identify and eliminate from their movement” the handful of initiators, arguing it was necessary for Poland’s interest.

“The current situation of Polish farmers is the result of Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and the disruption of the global economy, not because Ukrainians are defending themselves against the aggression,” the Foreign Ministry said.

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