Russia & Former Soviet Union

Zelensky calls for ‘cool down’ in tensions with Poland

A senior official in Warsaw previously criticized Ukraine for lacking gratitude, prompting a rebuke from Kiev

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky attends a NATO summit in Lithuania ©  Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has urged the Polish government to let emotions “cool down” and rekindle the two nations’ alliance in opposition to Russia. The appeal came on Wednesday amid a diplomatic spat over Warsaw’s opposition to importing cheap Ukrainian grain.

Zelensky lamented in a tweet that “politics is sometimes trying to be above unity, and emotions are trying to be above the fundamental interests of nations.” His government, he added, appreciates Polish support and what he called the two nations serving as “a real shield of Europe from sea to sea.”

The expression appeared to be a reference to the concept of the ‘intermarium,’ a proposal to unite the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which Warsaw pursued after World War I. The entity would have stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. “Poland from sea to sea” is a phrase popular among Polish nationalists.

Zelensky said that the shield cannot bear “a single crack” and declared that “emotions should definitely cool down” between Warsaw and Kiev.

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“The freedom and well-being of our nations, the values of our Europe and the victory over the common Russian enemy are above all,” he declared, again using an apparent nationalist reference, but this time from his own country. “Ukraine above all” is a popular slogan there.

The two neighbors locked horns last month over Poland’s campaign to extend an EU-approved ban on importing Ukrainian grain to five Eastern European nations, which is set to expire in mid-September. The restriction was first imposed on a national level in April to quell mass protests by farmers, whose livelihoods were undermined by cheaper Ukrainian products. Zelensky has branded the attempts to keep Kiev’s exports out of part of the EU market “un-European.”

Tensions escalated this week, after Marcin Przydacz, a senior Polish foreign policy official, argued in an interview that Ukraine should show more gratitude for all the help it gets from Warsaw instead of complaining about the ban.

Kiev reacted by issuing a formal protest to the Polish ambassador to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki, who was told that the remark was “unacceptable.” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the Ukrainian response a “mistake” that should not have happened.


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