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Polish truck drivers are blocking the border with Ukraine. It is hurting on the battlefield

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KORCZOWA, Poland — Pickup vans and tourniquets sure for Ukraine’s battlefield are caught in a mileslong line on the border with Poland. Elements to construct drones to combat off Russian forces are dealing with weeks of delays.

Ukrainian charities and corporations supplying the war-torn nation’s army warn that issues are rising as Polish truck drivers present no signal of ending a border blockade that has stretched previous a month. The Polish protesters argue that their livelihoods are at stake after the European Union relaxed some transport guidelines and Ukrainian truckers undercut their enterprise.

Whereas drones will make it to the entrance line, they’re delayed by two to 3 weeks, stated Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi, operational director of the KOLO basis, which helps the Ukrainian military with battlefield tech, together with drones and communications gear.

“Which means Russian military can have the power to kill Ukrainian troopers and terrorize civilians for a number of weeks longer,” he stated.

Truck drivers in Poland have blocked entry roads to frame crossings since Nov. 6, creating traces that stretch for greater than 30 kilometers (19 miles) and last as long as three weeks in freezing temperatures. The protesters insist that they don’t seem to be stopping army transports or humanitarian help into Ukraine.

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“That is very puzzling to me, even arduous to consider as a result of everyone is aware of — those that order, those that expedite and those that do the transport — that help for the army passes via with out having to attend in any respect,” stated Waldemar Jaszczur, a protest organizer.

The Polish truckers, in the meantime, say their Ukrainian counterparts are providing decrease costs to haul the whole lot from fish to luxurious items throughout the European Union since getting a brief waiver on the 27-nation bloc’s transport guidelines after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

Regardless of Poland and different close by nations being a few of Ukraine’s greatest supporters within the struggle, resentment has constructed from truckers and farmers who’re shedding enterprise to lower-cost Ukrainian items and providers flowing into the world’s greatest buying and selling bloc. It underscores the challenges of integrating Ukraine into the EU if permitted.

Now, the business conflict is spilling over to the battlefield, the Ukrainian charities say.

About 200 pickup vans wanted to move ammunition and evacuate the wounded from the entrance line are blocked on the border as a result of “deliveries have virtually stopped,” stated Ivan Poberzhniak, head of procurement and logistics for Come Again Alive, Ukraine’s largest charitable group offering the army with gear.

The pickup vans are straightforward targets for Russia, so it is not possible to ship sufficient of them even usually, he stated.

When drivers present paperwork to the Polish truckers saying the autos are for Ukraine’s army, “it doesn’t have a big impression on the protesters,” Poberzhniak stated.

“We should perceive that in wartime, provide is required each day in all instructions,” he stated.

Come Again Alive says 3,000 tourniquets are also caught on the border. It has been in a position to ship drones, turbines and batteries from what it has in inventory, “however that reserve is working out,” Poberzhniak stated.

The group is exploring various provide routes, he says, however there are few choices, and the army’s unfulfilled requests for gear are build up.

The protesting truckers assert that not all deliveries declared as army help are actually that. They’re urging the EU to reinstate the boundaries on the variety of Ukrainian vans that may enter the bloc.

Jaszczur, an organizer, stated Ukrainian truckers have been doing unauthorized transport providers throughout Europe. They’re asking “obviously low costs” — 35% decrease than what Polish truckers cost — and are “driving us out of the market,” he stated.

The identical factor is occurring in different nations like Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, he stated. Some Slovak truckers staged a protest of their very own in current days on the Ukrainian border.

Jaszczur says many Polish transport firms are going below due to the strain from Ukrainian competitors.

Whereas there isn’t any fast decision in sight, a change of management in Warsaw gives hope.

The brand new authorities is anticipated to be in place within the subsequent week and nearly actually can be led by the pro-EU centrist Donald Tusk. He has criticized the outgoing authorities’s “inaction,” providing hope to companies damage by the blockade but in addition to the protesters.

“We are going to search for options that ought to fulfill Polish transporters, however we is not going to tolerate any occasions that threaten Polish safety. Who impressed or initiated them?” Tusk stated Friday, stressing that Ukraine is a strategic level for Poland because it fights Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian truck driver Ivan Itchenko is a type of eagerly awaiting a decision. He has been ready in Poland for days with lots of of others, attempting to remain heat at a freeway relaxation cease till he can carry his load of salmon and herring to Ukrainian supermarkets.

“I clear the truck, clear the snow. Polish customs officers come and ask for paperwork thrice a day,” Itchenko stated Thursday.

The 61-year-old hopes his flip to drive via the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing comes Saturday.

“I dwell in Chernihiv (area), close to Russia. On daily basis there are assaults. Now I’m caught on the Polish border. What do they need?”

With temperatures falling, drivers are experiencing tough situations, selecting to not warmth their vans to save lots of gas and dealing with restricted entry to meals and loos, Ukrainian media say.

Polish and Ukrainian officers are negotiating with assist from the European Fee, the EU’s govt department, however the protest has solely expanded.

“We don’t see any gentle within the tunnel, we don’t see any authorities, any authorities or the EU Fee actually giving consideration to this,” stated Dariusz Matulewicz, head of the truckers’ affiliation in Szczecin, a metropolis in western Poland.

Poland’s outgoing authorities has “nothing in opposition to supporting Ukraine” however it “should not enable the help exercise to be finished on the expense of Polish corporations,” deputy minister for infrastructure, Rafal Weber, stated Monday in Brussels.

The EU has pressed Warsaw to discover a solution to finish the blockade however stood by its take care of Kyiv. It is “helpful to the European market, to Ukraine and to Moldova,” stated Adina Valean, EU transport commissioner who additionally threatened sanctions in opposition to Poland.

Ukrainian officers say the truckers’ protest provides extra stress to their economic system and solely serves Russia’s pursuits.

Ukrainian exports have dropped by 40% via the 4 blocked border crossings, and the state finances has misplaced some 9.3 billion hryvnias ($252,000) because of the shortfall in customs funds, stated Danylo Hetmantsev, head of the finance and tax committee in Ukraine’s parliament.

“Undoubtedly, it is a highly effective blow to our economic system and our exports,” Hetmantsev stated Tuesday on state TV.


AP journalists Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Volodymyr Yurchuk in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed.

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