Tensions grow as 160 tonnes of Ukrainian grain sabotaged in Poland

The grain emptied out of wagons near the village of Kotomierz travelling to the port of Gdansk in Poland
The grain emptied out of wagons near the village of Kotomierz travelling to the port of Gdansk in Poland

Polish saboteurs vandalised 160 tonnes of Ukrainian grain on Sunday, marking the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter cross-border dispute over agricultural exports.

Video and pictures online showed eight wagons of corn spilling onto the tracks near the village of Kotomierz, northern Poland, prompting Ukraine’s deputy prime minister to condemn it as an act of “impunity and irresponsibility”.

“These pictures show 160 tonnes of destroyed Ukrainian grain. The grain was in transit to the port of Gdansk and then to other countries,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The fourth case of vandalism at Polish railway stations. The fourth case of impunity and irresponsibility.”

Later on Sunday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned: “If steps to solve the problem with Poland at the border are not found, we will protect our business.”

Previous incidents of grain being spilled from trains took place on the Polish border with Ukraine.

Polish farmers have been protesting this month against what they say is unfair competition from Ukraine and European Union environment regulations.

They have blocked border crossings with Ukraine and motorways, and emptied Ukrainian produce from train wagons.

“We know that protests that take the form of spilling grain are not good,” Czeslaw Siekierski, Polish agriculture minister, told a news conference.

However, he added, sometimes the reaction to such incidents from the Ukrainian side went too far.

Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, said on Friday that he will classify border crossings with Ukraine, as well as nearby roads and railways, as critical infrastructure, giving a “100 per cent guarantee that military and humanitarian aid will reach the Ukrainian side without any delays”.

He was responding to Mr Zelensky’s invitation to come to the border to end the farmers’ blockade, calling it “a measure of national security”.

Lidia Kowalska, a police spokesman from the northern Polish city of Bydgoszcz, told Reuters “the details and circumstances are being investigated”, she told Reuters. “At 0930 we received a report about grain that had spilled out.”

Russian provocateurs

Some even blamed Russian intelligence.

“Attacks on Ukrainian grain are organised by Russia-led provocateurs. There is no doubt their goal is to destroy Polish-Ukrainian relations and undermine Poland.

“Therefore I cannot understand why the Polish state [doesn’t] arrest these FSB assets or protect grain trains,” Sergej Sumlenny, director of the European Resilience Centre, wrote on X.

Others have pointed out the traumatic nature of the protests for Ukrainians, linking them to the Holodomor, a 1930s famine caused by Soviet agricultural collectivisation.

Ariana Gic, senior advisor at the Centre for Eastern European Democracy wrote on X: “I cannot even begin to express how absolutely sickening this is ,even on a purely symbolic level for Ukraine.”

“Moscow’s 1932-33 Holodomor genocide of the Ukrainian people… was by artificial famine. Russians dumped Ukrainian grain then too,” she added.