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Polish PM Donald Tusk pledges unity, end to border blockade during Kyiv visit

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 22, 2024 5:58 PM 3 min read
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (L) at a joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Jan. 22, 2024. (Office of the President)
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Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Jan. 22 during his first visit to Ukraine since assuming the position.

One of Ukraine's closest allies amid Russia's war, Poland's consistent track record of support has been marred in recent months over the protest and border blockade by Polish truckers, who claim that the liberalization of transport visa rules for Ukrainians has hurt their domestic businesses.

Polish truckers suspended their blockade of the border last week, lifting the closure of the final border crossing on Jan. 16.

Tusk and Zelensky said during their meeting on Jan. 22 that both sides "have reached a common understanding" regarding the protests.

"We understand the depth of the reasons that led to this kind of situation, but draw attention first and foremost to the depth of the threat that stands before our peoples," Zelensky said about the truckers.

The two leaders also discussed a number of other issues related to Russia's war and Polish-Ukrainian bilateral relations.

"Poland will do everything...to increase Ukraine's chance of winning this war," Tusk said.

At a joint press conference following the meeting, Zelensky said that a new package of defense assistance from Poland had been announced but did not specify what was included in it.

"We appreciate such unflagging support," he said.

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Both leaders acknowledged that the fight for Ukraine's freedom is also a fight for Poland and the rest of Europe's security.

Zelensky added that they also spoke about the possibility of joint arms production between Poland and Ukraine.

"The coming months and years will be a military and logistical challenge for the entire free world," Tusk said. "I welcomed the president's declaration that we will build joint (military) ventures with great satisfaction," he added.

"We will invest in companies in Poland and Ukraine that will increase of defense capabilities.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, Poland has supplied Ukraine with almost $3.5 billion in military aid, Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at the press conference, as cited by Ukrinform.

This includes hundreds of tanks, airplanes, helicopters, air defense systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, infantry combat vehicles, boats, anti-tank weapons, artillery, and ammunition, according to Shmyhal.

Tusk's office announced that Poland had joined the Group of Seven (G7) plan for security guarantees for Ukraine, first announced at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023.

Under this plan, individual countries would provide bilateral support to help Kyiv repel the ongoing Russian invasion and deter any future aggression.

The security guarantees would entail explicit and long-lasting obligations, as well as bolster Ukraine's ability to resist Russian aggression. The guarantees would also cover sanctions, financial aid, and post-war reconstruction.

Tusk also reiterated previous declarations of support for Ukraine's EU accession.

"Poland will try to help in all aspects of the EU accession process so that Ukraine's full membership in the European Union becomes a fact as soon as possible," he said.

The two leaders also discussed plans for Ukraine's post-war reconstruction and recovery. Tusk said that Poland would appoint a commissioner specifically responsible for working on this issue.

The Polish Press Agency (PAP) reported later that the position would go to lawmaker Pawel Kowal.

Ukraine war latest: Reports of explosions, fires in Russian rear, occupied Sevastopol after alleged Ukrainian strikes
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11:25 PM

Every Western decision is late by a year, says Zelensky.

Western partners have been deliberating key decisions on military assistance for Ukraine for "too long," President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 20 in an interview with Reuters. The president described the delivery of aid, particularly badly needed air defense, as "one big step forward, but before that, two steps back."
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