Poland may be one of Ukraine’s most vocal supporters, hailed by President Volodmyr Zelensky as the “real shield of Europe”, but their relations have soured to “not their best”, Polish officials have said.
Earlier this week, Polish presidential aide Marcin Przydacz called on Kyiv to “appreciate the role Poland has played for Ukraine in recent months and years”.
His remarks infuriated Kyiv and set off a chain of summons’ of both Ukrainian and Polish ambassadors. It is not the first time that complaints have been lodged against Ukraine and Mr Zelensky for a lack of gratitude.
In July, complaints voiced by Ben Wallace, the UK defence minister, that Ukraine was treating some of its allies like “Amazon” led to the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, being fired.
Rumours also emerged that US President Joe Biden erupted in anger earlier this year during a phone call with Mr Zelensky as the Ukrainian leader read out a list of military demands.
Poland is one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, ranking as the sixth most prolific financial backer (£3.67 billion) of its neighbour.
Beyond material support, it has also been outspoken in its criticism of Vladimir Putin and was the first state to host Mr Zelensky following the February 24 invasion last year.
But tensions between the pair have grown after Poland opposed Ukrainian grain imports that had been triggering protests from local farmers who were losing out to the cheaper competition.
On Tuesday (August 1) Kyiv described the latest comments from Poland as “unacceptable” and summoned the Polish ambassador.
The following day, Poland responded by summoning Ukraine’s envoy in Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, to the foreign ministry. It later said his deputy would be hosted instead as Mr Zvarych is currently in Kyiv.
Pawel Jablonski, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, told a local radio station later that day that diplomats would air their grievances to Mr Zvarych’s deputy.
He then described relations between the two counties as “not their best” while defending Warsaw’s decision to seek an EU extension to a ban on imports of Ukrainian grain that is set to expire next month.
“Poland supports Ukraine – only and as much as – to the extent that is consistent with our national interest,” he said.
The 27-nation EU dropped duties on Ukrainian exports in the wake of Russia’s invasion to help Kyiv earn vital revenues.
But in May the bloc allowed Poland and four other member states to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds after their farmers protested that a glut of imports from the war-torn nation was pushing down prices.
The group of countries, which includes Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, has indicated that it wants the ban scheduled to end on September 15 to remain in place.
Poland has threatened to maintain the measure unilaterally if the EU does not act.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, this week criticised Kyiv’s decision to summon his country’s ambassador, saying “such mistakes should not happen”.
“In the face of the ongoing war and taking into account the enormous support Poland has given Ukraine, such mistakes should not happen,” he said.
Mr Zelensky did not issue an apology but sought to defuse the crisis in his own response to the spat, hailing Poland for acting as a “real shield of Europe – sea to sea”.
“We will not let any political affairs spoil the relations between the Ukrainian and the Polish people, and emotions will definitely go down,” said Mr Zelensky.