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“Ukraine is like a drowning man, it can drag us into the depths”: Polish President Andrzej Duda

The Polish President asserted that it has to first protect its own interest otherwise if Ukraine (drowning man) causes harm to it, they would not be able to help it.

On Tuesday (19 September), Polish President Andrzej Duda likened Ukraine to a drowning man while defending his government’s decision to impose a grain embargo on Ukrainian agricultural products. During a media briefing outside the UN headquarters in New York, he targeted Ukraine for going against them at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and challenging their decision to ban grain imports from Kyiv.  

“We are dealing a bit with a drowning person. Everyone who has ever taken part in rescuing a drowning person knows that a drowning person is extremely dangerous; and that he can drag you to the depths. He has unimaginable strength due to personal fear, the influence of adrenaline, and perhaps “simply drown the rescuer,” the Polish President was quoted saying in Polish media outlet PAP.

The Polish President asserted that it has to first protect its own interest otherwise if Ukraine (drowning man) causes harm to it, they would not be able to help it.

Duda further said, “It is a bit like the situation between Poland and Ukraine. Ukraine is under Russian attack, undoubtedly in a very difficult situation, Ukraine is grasping at everything it can. Can you blame it for that? Of course, you can complain. Should we act to protect ourselves from the drowning person causing harm? Of course, we must act to protect ourselves from harm being done to us, because if the drowning person causes harm and drowns us, he will not get help. So we have to take care of our interests and we will do it effectively and decisively.”

Going ahead, he reminded Ukraine that it has been receiving help from Warsaw and that their country serves as a transit nation. He also highlighted that the ban doesn’t prohibit the transit of Ukrainian grain. He noted that Ukraine should remember that it receives help from Poland. 

He said, “It would be good for Ukraine to remember that it receives help from us and to remember that we are also a transit country to Ukraine.”

He added, “There are business circles that have interests in Ukraine and would like to sell grain as quickly as possible at the lowest possible cost. We have to defend ourselves against it.” 

Regarding his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he claimed that despite his plans, the two could not meet because of “organisational reasons”. 

He said that the scheduled speeches by various leaders at UNGA got delayed which impacted their plans. However, he said that it was possible that he would meet Zelensky later.

On the issue of Ukraine’s move to sue their country at the WTO, Duda said that if Ukraine filed the complaint, Poland would explain the situation before the tribunal.

The backdrop of the ongoing Polish-Ukraine dispute

In May, the European Union imposed a restriction on Ukrainian grain. This was done to allow Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia to ban the domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds. However, this ban still permitted the transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere. 

On 15 September, the restrictions over the Ukrainian grains expired and the European Commission announced that it would not extend restrictions on imports of agricultural products from Ukraine. However, on its part, Kyiv agreed that it would take measures to limit imports from its side and not flood the neighbouring countries’ markets.

Nevertheless, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia went ahead and imposed unilateral restrictions on the import of Ukrainian agriculture products, a grain embargo. Additionally, Poland categorically asserted that their restrictions will remain in place indefinitely.  

Regarding the Polish-Ukraine dispute, media agency Politico reported that Kyiv will sue Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia over their refusal to drop a ban on Ukrainian agricultural products based on their interview with Ukraine’s Trade Representative Taras Kachka. 

Kachka said, “These arbitrary prohibitions are ridiculous.”

On Monday (18 September), Ukraine’s economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko said that her country had filed a complaint with the WTO against the three countries over the ban.

Following the development, a WTO spokesperson confirmed that Kyiv had taken the first step in a trade dispute by filing a complaint to the global trade body, Reuters reported.

Ukraine’s decision to sue European nations some of which are its ardent supporters in the ongoing war against Russia, didn’t go well with Polish leaders who hinted that Poland could stop helping Ukraine if Polish citizens don’t support its move to assist Ukraine, hinting that Ukraine’s WTO move had caused angst in Poland. 

Hinting about its dissatisfaction, the government said that Poland will likely cut financial support to the million Ukrainian refugees it is hosting. 

On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk told Polish media PAP that the Polish government is “unyielding” on grain embargo from Ukraine citing the need to protect the interests of Polish farmers. 

According to him, the steps taken by Ukraine have a negative impact on mutual relations. He also asserted that Ukraine’s move undermined the sympathy for Ukraine that Poles have. 

He noted, “Ukraine’s actions make no impression on us… but they do make a certain impression on Polish public opinion. This can be seen in the polls, in the level of public support for continued support for Ukraine. And this harms Ukraine itself.”

He said, “We would like to continue supporting Ukraine, but, for this to be possible, we must have the support of Poles in this matter. If we don’t have it, it will be difficult for us to continue supporting Ukraine in the same way as we have been doing so far.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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