June 13, 2024

Relations between Ukraine and Poland have once again become strained over the export of grain.

A statement by Polish President Andrzej Duda, in which he compared Ukraine to a “drowning man,” was added to Warsaw’s numerous threats about a possible limitation of cooperation with Kyiv.

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In his address at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that by blocking imports of agricultural produce from Ukraine, Poland is inadvertently advancing Russian interests.

Veteran Ukrainian diplomat Oleksandr Matsuka spoke to NV Radio to answer three key questions about the conflict between Kyiv and Warsaw.

NV: It seems that [Russian dictator Vladimir] Putin has been waiting for just such a moment. Electoral cycles are beginning in several countries: in Poland, parliamentary elections will be held in mid-October. We are seeing a huge aggravation of the Ukrainian issue. We are constantly hearing about how much Ukrainian grain is interfering, and politicians are ready to do anything to get re-elected. A planned meeting between Presidents Duda and Zelenskyy in New York was also canceled. How big is the threat that we will now quarrel with Poland?

Read also: Zelenskyy downplays rumors of soured ties with Poland, reiterates ‘friendship’ amid grain spat

Matsuka: You said that this is a moment Putin has been anticipating. Apparently, not only Putin. We also knew that there would be elections in Poland. And the question is how well we understand our partner. It was to be expected that, of course, there would be tough statements and certain actions. We know how [economically] painful it has been for Poland to have Ukrainian grain sold on their markets. That is, all this was clear from the very beginning. And we only add to this tension that already existed. In response to Poland’s refusal to allow the import of our grain, we have said “we will sue you.” Of course, when such accusations are made before elections, this reaction is absolutely expected. On the matter of Duda refusing to meet [with Zelenskyy]: in any case, he explained [the situation] by the fact that schedules did not line up. And I understand that, because it’s really, really hard to plan who’s going to speak when.

NV: Do you know what “schedules do not match” means in diplomatic language? This does not mean that they did not find time. It means that there was no desire.

Matsuka: Oh, no. You know, the UN General Assembly, the first week, when all the meetings are scheduled by the minute, when the schedule of speeches goes awry, sometimes it just so happens that you have to meet someone, and you have a speech at the General Assembly or a meeting with the Secretary General. And you simply don’t have any slack.

NV: You say that we should keep Polish elections in mind. I think that this was no surprise to us. Another thing is that it seems that now Polish politicians — those who have gone to Ukraine, and who actually helped us a lot and continue to help us — are very deliberately antagonizing Ukraine. We did not expect that we would be called a “drowning man.”

Read also: In escalating grain row, top Polish diplomat blasts Kyiv’s position as ‘offensive, harming’ relations

Matsuka:  Of course, we didn’t expect that, and it was unpleasant. But the Poles are the ones who will vote.  And that is why this is a message to his constituents, who are tired, perhaps, of Poland spending so much money and effort on Ukraine. Duda needs to somehow sweeten the situation and say to his people that “we are primarily focused on you.” That is, it is purely electioneering. That’s how I would feel about it. And we may not have provoked this scandal, but we have not actively tried to extinguish it. And therefore, of course, such rhetoric should be expected here. And what else should the president of Poland say when he is sued? What should he say to his voters? He has to say something they will like.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine

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