WARSAW: Poland will no longer arm Ukraine to focus on its own defense, the Polish prime minister said on Wednesday, a few hours after Warsaw summoned Kyiv’s ambassador amid a row over grain exports.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Mateusz Morawiecki said, in response to a question from a reporter on whether Warsaw would continue to support Kyiv despite the grain exports disagreement.
Poland has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters after Russia invaded in February 2022 and is one of Kyiv’s main weapons suppliers.
It also hosts some one million Ukrainian refugees, who have benefited from various kinds of state aid.
Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv, sparked by Poland’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers, have intensified in recent days.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has closed off Black Sea shipping lanes used before the war, resulting in the EU becoming a major transit route and export destination for Ukrainian grain.
In May, the EU agreed to restrict imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, seeking to protect farmers there who blamed the imports 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.
But on Friday, the European Commission 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 issue is particularly sensitive in Poland, where elections take 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.”
Kyiv responded to warnings by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia by announcing that it would lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Morawiecki had warned earlier on Wednesday that he would extend the list of Ukrainian products banned from import if Kyiv were to escalate the grain dispute.
A foreign ministry statement said that “putting pressure on Poland in multilateral forums or sending complaints to international courts are not appropriate methods to resolve differences between our countries.”
Kyiv responded by calling on Poland to “leave emotion aside” after it had summoned its ambassador, urging Warsaw to adopt a “constructive” approach in the dispute.