President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 19 September 2023. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE


Zelenskyy says unilateral grain embargo ‘supports Russia’ while at UN meeting


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19, criticised the grain embargo imposed on his country by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

He also did not find the time to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda, although the two were scheduled to meet in New York.

Duda was diplomatic, telling reporters that his meeting with the president of Ukraine “has fallen off the agenda for now” adding that both of them have a very tight schedule so the meeting may take place at some other time.

Regarding the grain ban, Zelenskyy said on X: “We opened a temporary sea export corridor. We’re working to preserve land routes. Alarmingly, some in Europe play out solidarity in a political theatre – turning grain into a thriller.

“They may seem to play their own roles. In fact, they’re helping set the stage for a Moscow actor.”

Duda was less diplomatic about the grain issue itself. He said Ukraine was “acting like a man drowning” who, in a panic, can drown the person trying to save him. He added that Poland had the right to defend its markets and was not acting to hurt Ukraine.

Zelenskyy was not present during the UN General Assembly meeting to hear Duda’s speech. The Polish president spoke against redrawing borders as a counter to arguments that Ukraine should give up land to resolve the conflict with Russia.

The Polish former conservative PiS prime minister Beata Szydło reacted strongly on X in response to Zelenskyy’s remarks, tweeting that “these are insinuations which are not worthy of such a serious statesman”.

She suggested that Zelenskyy’s remarks were a major overreaction. “The corridors for the transit of Ukrainian grain are open. It is Ukrainian oligarchs who have abused the trust in Ukraine and flooded neighbouring markets with their grain,” she said.

Poland’s European affairs minister Szymon vel Szynkowski said that such comments coming from Ukraine were not helping to encourage Polish support for giving aid to the country.

Polls show that backing for Ukraine aid has been decreasing from what was a high level back when Russia started its war against the country in February 2022.

Jacek Sasin, minister for state assets in the PiS government, also took to X to remind the Ukrainian president that “no one in the world has helped Ukraine more than Poland”.

Sasin’s sentiments were echoed by Sławomir Mentzen, the leader of Poland’s opposition Confederation party, which has been sceptical about the high level of support offered to Ukraine.

“We have given Ukraine tanks, arms and ammunition, received millions of refugees, spending billions. And now Zelenskyy decides that we are acting in Putin’s interests,” he said.

On September 16, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia introduced a unilateral grain embargo on Ukraine in fear of a repetition of a damaging influx of such foodstuffs in their markets.

That came after the European Commission lifted the European Union-sanctioned embargo on September 15.

In response to the unilateral action by the three EU Member States, Ukraine said it will shortly announce its own embargo on Polish fruit and vegetables.