Poland, one of Ukraine’s most steadfast allies, has said that it will no longer provide weaponry to its neighbor as a diplomatic row over grain intensifies.
Poland’s priority, according to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, is on arming itself with more contemporary weapons.
Poland has not offered much more than the 320 Soviet-era tanks and 14 MiG-29 fighter fighters it has previously supplied to Ukraine.
The comments, however, come at a time when the two neighbors are quite tense.
After Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia extended an embargo on Ukrainian grain, Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks at the UN on Tuesday prompted Poland to call Ukraine’s ambassador.
Mr. Zelensky said it was alarming how some of Ukraine’s friends in Europe were playing out solidarity “in a political theatre – making a thriller from grain”. Warsaw denounced his words as “unjustified concerning Poland, which has supported Ukraine since the first days of the war”.
Mr. Morawiecki was interviewed on Wednesday night by the private Polsat news TV channel hours after the Ukrainian ambassador had been summoned to the foreign ministry in Warsaw in response to the Ukrainian leader’s speech.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine; because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” the prime minister said.
He was adamant Poland was helping Ukraine defeat the “Russian barbarian” by maintaining a military hub; but would not agree to Poland’s markets being destabilised by grain imports, Polish news agency Pap reported.
“Our hub in Rzeszow, in agreement with the Americans and NATO, is fulfilling the same role the whole time as it has fulfilled and will fulfil.”
Poland’s military has depleted its own military by about a third through transfers to Ukraine and is in the process of replacing it with modern Western-produced hardware.
Arms exports to Ukraine will not stop completely as Polish manufacturer PGZ is due to send about 60 Krab artillery weapons in the coming months.
The grain dispute began after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine all but closed the main Black Sea shipping lanes and forced Ukraine to find alternative overland routes.
That in turn led to large quantities of grain ending up in central Europe.
Consequently, the European Union temporarily banned imports of grain into five countries, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, to protect local farmers, who feared Ukrainian grain was driving down the prices locally.
The ban ended on 15 September and the EU chose not to renew it, but Hungary, Slovakia and Poland decided to keep on implementing it.