Poland will no longer supply weapons to Ukraine, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was reported as saying, amid growing tension between Warsaw and Kyiv in a dispute over grain exports.
Poland has been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters since the Russian invasion last year and is one of Kyiv’s primary weapons suppliers. Poland also hosts about one million Ukrainian refugees.
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But Morawiecki appeared to signal on Wednesday that relations were about to change radically.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” the prime minister said on Wednesday, speaking in response to a question from a reporter on whether Warsaw would continue to support Kyiv with weapons despite the dispute over grain exports.
The official social media account of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland later shared a local news organisation’s post containing Morawiecki’s comments on ending arms supplies to Ukraine.
📺 Premier @MorawieckiM w #GośćWydarzeń dla @PolsatNewsPL: Ukraina broni się przed bestialskim atakiem rosyjskim i rozumiem tą sytuację, jednak tak jak powiedziałem, będziemy chronić nasz kraj. My już nie przekazujemy uzbrojenia na 🇺🇦, ponieważ uzbrajamy teraz Polskę.
— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) September 20, 2023
[Unofficial translation: “Ukraine is defending itself against the brutal Russian attack, and I understand this situation, but as I said, we will protect our country. We no longer transfer weapons to [Ukraine] because we are now arming Poland.”]
Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv have flared in recent days following Poland’s imposition of a ban on Ukraine’s grain imports in a bid to protect the interests of Polish farmers.
Ukraine responded to the ban by warnings Poland – as well as fellow European Union members Hungary and Slovakia – that it would lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Morawiecki in turn warned that he would extend the list of Ukrainian products banned from import if Kyiv were to escalate the grain dispute to an international level.
Poland also summoned Kyiv’s envoy to the foreign ministry in Warsaw on Wednesday following comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the ban on Ukraine’s grain.
Zelenskyy said at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York that Ukraine was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but he added that the “political theatre” around grain was only helping Moscow.
Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Ukraine’s Ambassador to Warsaw 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”.
Earlier this year, the EU agreed to place restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as part of efforts to protect local farmers who blamed cheaper Ukrainian imports for a slump in prices in local markets.
The EU measures allowed Ukrainian grain to continue transiting through the five countries but stopped the grain from being sold in the local market.
On Friday, the EU said it was ending those import measures.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia immediately announced they would defy the EU move and would impose their own unilateral ban on Ukraine’s grain.
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.”
A WTO 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.
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”.