Trains with Ukrainian grain stored in wagons at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Trains with Ukrainian grain stored in wagons at the Polish-Ukrainian border.  (AFP or licensors)

Poland stops arms supplies to Ukraine amid grain row

Poland says it has stopped supplying weapons to Ukraine amid an escalating dispute over grain shipments that threatens to break a critical alliance in Kyiv's fight against Moscow. The announcement came after Ukraine lashed out over Poland and other neighbours' decision to halt Ukrainian grain imports.

By Stefan J. Bos  

With weeks before the general elections, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed that his nation would no longer send weapons to neighboring Ukraine. "We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons," he told Polish television. "If you want to defend yourself, you must have to have something to defend with. That is the principle we adhere to," the Polish leader added.   

Morawiecki stressed that he already visited a Polish arms factory in the city of Radom to arrange more orders. 

His announcement came just hours after Poland summoned Ukraine's ambassador and threatened to expand a grain ban to other imports from its neighbor.

The government in Warsaw reacted to remarks from Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the United Nations General Assembly, where the Ukrainian leader accused some European Union countries of feigning solidarity with his war-torn nation and appeasing Russia. "It is alarming to see how some in Europe, some of our friends in Europe, play out solidarity in a political theatre — making a thriller from the grain," he said. 

Zelensky added that the nations involved "may seem to play their own role, but in fact, they are helping set the stage to a Moscow actor."

While he didn't single out Poland, Zelensky's language triggered an angry response there. The ruling Law & Justice party was already furious over earlier criticism from Kyiv about its decision to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports unilaterally. 

Critics said that move was seen as a pre-election appeal to rural Polish voters where farmers have questioned the influx of cheaper Ukrainian grain imports. 

Extending ban 

Hungary and Slovakia have also announced an extension of the ban, citing concerns about the livelihood of their farmers despite the EU's demand that they lift these measures. 

In May, the EU's executive European Commission allowed them, Bulgaria, and Romania to temporarily ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds while permitting transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere. 

However, after the ban officially ended last week, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia continued these measures, prompting Kyiv to threaten to sue its neighbors for refusing to open up their markets, further angering Warsaw. 

The grain row has now extended to military aid at a sensitive time for Kyiv. Poland is a vital route for arms going to Ukraine from its allies in the United States and Europe, as not all neighbors have allowed such shipments. 

Hungary also refused weapons destined for neighboring Ukraine to pass through its territory. Budapest doesn't want to upset Moscow as it heavily depends on Russian natural gas and oil and prefers peace talks to end the war. 

Yet the standoff comes as Ukraine seeks more Western weapons at a time when it is making slow progress in its counteroffensive against Russia. 

The nearly 19-month-long war has killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
21 September 2023, 16:57