Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Volodymyr Zelensky never to “insult Poles again” after the Ukrainian president suggested his neighbor was putting on a show over their disputes over grain exports.
The Polish leader responded to Zelensky after the Ukrainian leader offered veiled criticism of Poland at the United Nations general assembly this week, saying the dispute was “political theater” and that “some of our friends in Europe” have “made a thriller.” of the grain.”
On Friday, at a rally in Swidnik, Poland, Morawiecki responded.
“I want to tell President Zelensky never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the UN,” he said.
“The Polish people will never allow this to happen, and defending the good name of Poland is not only my duty and honor, but also the most important task of the Polish government,” added the Polish Prime Minister.
Morawiecki’s comments risk deepening divisions between two countries that have previously been close allies united against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Tensions between them have risen in recent weeks over the ban on Ukrainian grain, initially implemented earlier this year by several EU nations to protect the livelihoods of local farmers worried about being hurt by the low price of Ukrainian grain.
The EU announced plans to lift the ban last week, but Poland – along with Hungary and Slovakia – said it would keep it, prompting protests from Ukraine, which filed lawsuits against the three countries, and subsequently Zelensky’s comments at the UN.
Poland immediately condemned Zelensky’s comments at the UN and its Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to convey its “strong protest.” Hours later, the Polish prime minister said in a forceful statement on social media that the country would “no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland.”
That seemed to indicate a major shift in policy: Poland has so far been one of the most determined countries in the race to put weapons and resources in Ukraine’s hands.
But Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday walked back his prime minister’s comments, saying they were “interpreted in the worst possible way.”
He said Morawiecki had simply been referring to the purchase of new weapons for the Polish army, and that older weapons systems that Warsaw considers unnecessary to modernize its own army could still be shipped across the border.
Poland has long been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, along with multiple former Eastern bloc nations that fear they will be next if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist war succeeds.
Poland sent fighter jets across the border months ahead of the United States, which just last month agreed to approve the transfer of the F-16s, pending Ukrainian forces completing training.
It has also sent more than 200 Soviet-style tanks to Ukraine.
Most Western military equipment and other supplies reach Ukraine through Poland and the country hosts 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees, according to the United Nations.
According to the Kiel Institute’s tracker of how much nations have donated to Ukraine, Poland has pledged €4.27 billion (about $4.54 billion), in a mix of military, financial and humanitarian aid.