Polish truckers block border to Ukraine over claims of unfair EU support

Trucks stand in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border
Blockades have been set up around the clock to prevent the free flow of goods into Ukraine - Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Polish truckers and farmers on Monday started a round-the-clock blockade along the border to boost the country’s economy.

They blocked the key border checkpoint at Medyka, one of the busiest on the frontier, further expanding the protest that started at three other crossings on Nov 6.

The truckers are demanding the restoration of transport permit quotas for Ukrainian lorries entering the European Union, which were lifted last year to help Kyiv’s war against Russia.

Ukrainian officials have argued the protest is damaging its fragile war-time economy by hampering exports of wood, car parts, furniture and vegetable oil.

They also warn it prevents supplies of motor fuel from entering the country.

Roads in and out of Ukraine have become key logistical routes with the country’s Black Sea ports under a partial naval blockade by Russian forces.

Trucks standing in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border
Ukrainian officials say the protest is harming its fragile war-time economy - Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry has estimated that an average of 40,000 and 50,000 trucks cross the border with Poland every month at eight points.

But the Polish truckers argued that they are losing out to Ukrainian companies which offer cheaper rates for their services, with the firms now transporting goods throughout the EU, rather than just between Ukraine and the bloc.

Tomasz Borkowski, leader of the Polish Committee to Protect Transporters and Transport Employers, said: “I would like to end this protest as soon as possible, because it is as burdensome for us as for everyone around us.

“We have no intention of giving up and we will stand until we get our terms.”

The queue at the Medyka checkpoint, one of eight road crossings between Poland and Ukraine, stretched for 30 kilometres on Monday, the Polsat broadcaster reported on Monday.

Ukrainian drivers wait near their trucks, blocked by Polish protesters
Ukrainian drivers wait near their trucks, blocked by Polish protesters - Global Images Ukraine/Getty

The average wait time for trucks to cross the frontier was 127 hours, according to data from the Polish border guard.

At the moment, protesters are allowing two lorries to pass into Ukraine each hour, with exemptions for humanitarian and weapons supplies.

Firefighters and volunteers are waiting in Przemyśl, the Polish border town, to provide warm food and aid to stranded drivers.

Polish drivers hoping to re-enter the EU have also been stranded in the queues on the Ukrainian side of the frontier.

The Medyka crossing was one of the main gateways for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

It has also served as a key transport hub for military and humanitarian aid arriving at the airport in the Polish city of Rzeszów.

Protesters are allowing two lorries to pass into Ukraine each hour
Protesters are allowing two lorries to pass into Ukraine each hour - Wojtek Jargilo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, said the blockade was preventing humanitarian supplies from reaching the country, describing the protest as “disgraceful”.

“The whole of your massive contribution to Ukraine’s victory in this war is being nullified by a group of people on the margins who are blocking the deliveries of humanitarian supplies to a country that is defending its independence and the security of Europe for a second year,” he wrote on X.

But his appeal to end the protest action caused a row with one of the organisers.

In response, Roman Kondrow, the leader of Deceived Countryside, said: “The mayor is lying; it is nonsense to say that we are blocking humanitarian aid. This is provocative, and if they continue to lie so blatantly we will escalate the protest and will not allow any lorry to pass.”