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Ukrainian embassy asks Warsaw to unblock border following 2nd driver's death

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 23, 2023 8:40 PM 3 min read
Banners with the demands of the protesting truckers are seen hung on trucks during the blockade of the border crossing to Ukraine near Dorohusk, Poland, on Nov. 6, 2023. (Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The Ukrainian embassy in Poland appealed to Warsaw to end a haulers' blockade at the Polish-Ukrainian border after a second trucker died while waiting in the line, Ambassador Vasyl Zvarych said on Nov. 23.

Polish protesters have been blocking the movement of cargo vehicles at several border crossings with Ukraine since early November in a protest against the EU's liberalization of transport rules for Ukrainian trucks.

Four checkpoints have been blocked so far, and a fifth is being considered, leaving thousands of vehicles stranded at the crossings. A similar protest was launched by Slovak haulers at the Vysne Nemecke-Uzhhorod crossing earlier this week.  

Two Ukrainian truck drivers died while stuck in the line caused by the blockade, reportedly of natural causes. A 54-year-old man died on Nov. 12, and the death of a 56-year-old trucker was reported earlier on Nov. 23.

"The restriction of freight traffic by Polish protesters poses a threat to people's lives and health and causes a significant threat to the safety and order of traffic on public roads," Zvarych wrote on social media.

The ambassador pointed out that this provides local authorities with legal grounds for the dissolution of the protests, according to Polish law.

"We appeal to Polish authorities to take decisive action and unblock the traffic and prevent Ukrainian, Polish, and foreign truck drivers from standing in many-kilometers-long lines in unsuitable conditions."

Polish haulers complained that the high number of Ukrainian drivers entering Poland are hauling goods from Poland to other countries, undercutting local businesses that cannot match cheaper Ukrainian prices.

Ukrainian officials and industry representatives denied the accusations, and the EU warned the Polish government to ensure the end of the blockade.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal discussed the issue on Nov. 23 with EU Commission Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.

"We paid special attention to the situation on Ukraine's borders with some EU members. We are promptly setting up alternative logistics routes; I voiced our proposals," Shmyhal said, adding that Kyiv is counting on the European Commission's support to resolve the matter.

Ukraine also proposed the creation of an EU monitoring group to observe the situation at the border, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Serhii Derkach said.

The group's task would be to check whether humanitarian goods are allowed to cross and to ensure proper conditions for stranded drivers, among other priorities.

Polish farmers who joined the protests said they intend to maintain the blockade until early January. Some organizers voiced the intention to block the Yahodyn-Dorohusk checkpoint until Feb. 1.

Trucker protests: Unraveling the standoff between Polish and Ukrainian haulers
As Polish protests blocking three major Poland-Ukraine border crossings stretch into their third week, negotiations to bring an end to the blockade have all but failed. Exhausted drivers are stuck in massive lines on both sides of the border, with expected waiting times reaching over one month at t…

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