Poland’s president says PM was misinterpreted on Ukraine arms

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday claimed that the prime minister’s comments on no longer arming Ukraine had been taken the wrong way, amid a mounting row between the two countries.

Poland has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters since Russia invaded in February 2022 and is one of Kyiv’s main weapons suppliers.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said on Wednesday: “We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons.”

On Thursday, Warsaw promised to fulfil existing arms supply deals with Ukraine.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda speaks next to Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Sergіy Kyslytsya during a ministerial level meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

“Poland will only carry out previously agreed deliveries of ammunition and armaments. Including those resulting from contracts signed with Ukraine,” government spokesman Piotr Muller said.

Duda argued that “the prime minister’s words were interpreted in the worst way possible”.

“In my opinion, the prime minister meant that we won’t be transferring to Ukraine the new weaponry that we’re currently buying as we modernise the Polish army,” Duda told TVN24 television.

Warsaw has signed multiple arms deals, including with the United States and South Korea, from whom it ordered K2 “Black Panther” tanks and K9 howitzers.

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“As we receive the new weaponry from the US and South Korea, we will be releasing the weaponry currently used by the Polish army. Perhaps we will transfer it to Ukraine,” Duda said.

Apart from sending its own supplies, Poland is also a key transit country for weaponry that the United States and other Western supporters are sending to Ukraine.

Poland also hosts some 1 million Ukrainian refugees, who have benefited from various kinds of state aid.

Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv were sparked by a Polish ban on Ukrainian grain imports, with the goal of protecting its own farmers.

Trains carrying Ukrainian grain stored in wagons covered with white tarpaulin are seen on the second and third tracks in Dorohusk station at the Polish-Ukrainian border on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Ukraine on Thursday said the two sides would hold talks on the grain dispute “in the coming days”, saying the two countries still had “close” ties.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has closed off Black Sea shipping lanes used before the war, resulting in the European Union becoming a major transit route and export destination for Ukrainian grain.

In May, the EU agreed to restrict exports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, seeking to protect farmers there who blamed the shipments for a slump in prices on local markets.

The measures allowed the products to keep transiting through the five countries but stopped them being sold on the local market.

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But the European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – last week said it was ending the import ban, arguing that “the market distortions in the five member states bordering Ukraine have disappeared”.

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia immediately announced they would defy the move.

The grain issue is particularly sensitive in Poland, where a general election takes place next month. The current populist right-wing government of the Law and Justice party has strong support in farming regions.

“We were the first to do a lot for Ukraine and that’s why we expect for them to understand our interests,” Morawiecki told Polsat News on Wednesday. “Of course, we respect all of their problems but for us, the interests of our farmers are the most important thing.”

Bulgarian farmers stand in front of their tractors during a protest against the lifting of ban on imports of grain coming from Ukraine, in Dolni Bogrov, near Sofia, on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Kyiv said it would lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Morawiecki earlier also warned that he could extend the list of Ukrainian products banned from import if Kyiv were to escalate the grain dispute.

The Polish foreign ministry issued a statement saying: “Putting pressure on Poland in multilateral forums or sending complaints to international courts are not appropriate methods to resolve differences between our countries.”

Ukraine responded by summoning the Polish ambassador and calling on Poland to “leave emotion aside” and adopt a “constructive” approach in the dispute.

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