Poland summons Ukrainian ambassador over Zelenskiy remarks, Kyiv calls for calm

FILE PHOTO: Wheat grains are seen inside a storage of a farm that was damaged last year by Russian military strike in the village of Velykomykhailivka

By Alan Charlish

WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland summoned Kyiv's envoy to the foreign ministry on Wednesday, after comments by Ukraine's president on a ban on grain imports angered the government in Warsaw, which is toughening its stance ahead of October elections.

Ukraine's foreign ministry called for calm in the dispute pitting Kyiv against three of its neighbours over their decision to impose unilateral ban on Ukrainian farm imports.

Poland has been one of Kyiv's staunchest allies since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, but the countries are now embroiled in a conflict over imports. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the United Nations General Assembly Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but added that the "political theatre" around grain imports was only helping Moscow.

Poland's foreign ministry said Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski had "conveyed the Polish side's strong protest against the statements made by President V. Zelenskiy at the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, alleging that some EU countries feigned solidarity while indirectly supporting Russia".

It said Jablonski also told Ambassador Vasyl Zvarych that "putting pressure on Poland in multilateral forums or sending complaints to international tribunals are not appropriate methods of resolving disputes between our countries".

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced curbs on grain imports from Ukraine on Friday after the European Commission decided not to extend a ban on sales into five EU states, including Romania and Bulgaria.

The ban was introduced to protect farmers from a surge of grain and food imports from Ukraine, after Russia's invasion largely blocked Ukraine's routes via Black Sea ports.


Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko, writing on Facebook, said: "We urge our Polish friends to put aside their emotions. The Ukrainian side has offered Poland a constructive path to resolve the grain issue."

Nikolenko said Ukraine's ambassador explained Kyiv's position on the "unacceptability" of the Polish ban and suggested Kyiv's proposals "will become the basis for moving the dialogue into a constructive course".

Ukraine's ambassador, Nikolenko said, also underlined the "incorrectness" of remarks by Polish President Andrzej Duda in New York that Ukraine should remember that it receives help from Poland. Duda had likened Kyiv to a "drowning person".

Romanian Agriculture Minister Florin Barbu, meanwhile, said Bucharest would work with Ukraine over the next 30 days on a grain export control plan to help protect Romanian farmers.

A World Trade Organization spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that Ukraine had taken the first step in a trade dispute by filing a complaint to the global trade body.

He did not name the countries although Kyiv has previously said the complaint targeted Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

Also on Tuesday, Ukraine said it would impose retaliatory import curbs on certain goods from Poland and Hungary if they did not lift their unilateral bans, drawing a response from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

"I warn the Ukrainian authorities, because if they escalate this conflict in this way, we will add more products to the ban on import into the territory of the Republic of Poland," Morawiecki told Polsat News.

In a live broadcast on Facebook, Morawiecki said that Warsaw was ready to help Kyiv but "not at the price of destabilising the Polish market".

(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz; editing by Christina Fincher, Tomasz Janowski, Mark Heinrich and Ron Popeski)