KYIV: The “catastrophic situation” on the Ukraine-Poland border has been closed by Polish truck drivers, with thousands of trucks stuck, the Ukrainian human rights commissioner said on Friday.
“The situation is catastrophic,” Dmytro Lobinets said on Telegram. “Ukrainian drivers are in such a terrible situation that they are planning to go on a hunger strike if things do not improve.”
Ukrainian border guards reported on Friday that about 2,100 trucks were stuck on the Polish side of the border.
Polish road companies have closed several crossing points since the beginning of November, denouncing what they consider “unfair competition” from their neighbour.
In particular, they say they have seen their income fall and blame the abandonment of the permit system governing the entry of Ukrainian transport companies into the EU.
Less than three weeks after the start of the blockade, Ukrainian economic losses were estimated at “more than 400 million euros” by the Ukrainian Employers’ Union, which includes about 8,000 companies.
Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lobinets said that he had contacted his Polish counterpart, Marcin Viacek, but had not yet received a response.
According to Mr. Lobinets, Kiev authorities are preparing to “evacuate” Ukrainian drivers stranded in Poland and plan to provide them with food, water, medicine and fuel. He did not provide details about how these evacuations would be carried out.
Furthermore, Slovak truck drivers also began closing a border crossing with Ukraine on Friday in protest against what they see as unfair competition from their Ukrainian counterparts.
The situation is risky for Ukraine, which relies heavily on the road to export its production and obtain supplies, because maritime transport, especially in the Black Sea, has been hampered by the Russian invasion that began almost two years ago.
At least two rounds of negotiations between Kiev, Warsaw and truckers have failed.
Warsaw said this week it would carry out “tightened checks” of Ukrainian trucks on roads leading to the border to suppress protests by transport workers.
The co-organizer of the Polish protests, Rafal Meckler, is the leader of a far-right movement.
Poland has received more than a million Ukrainian refugees since the war with Russia. But relations with Ukraine soured during Polish legislative elections this fall, when the ruling party increased its nationalist rhetoric and bickered with Kiev.