How Ukraine Found Itself on the Verge of Another Crisis with Poland

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Less than two months ago, on April 5th, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Poland for the last time.

This visit was considered a consolidation of a new level of Ukrainian-Polish relations. A level that would finally leave behind all the troubles that had marred the relations between Kyiv and Warsaw for many years.

But things turned out differently, as mentioned in the column by Yurii Panchenko, the editor of European Pravda Volhynia Test: Will Ukrainian-Polish Thaw Withstand History? The symbolic achievements of this visit started showing cracks in less than two weeks when Poland imposed a ban on Ukrainian agricultural products export.

As Panchenko points out, the export ban case was indicative. Although the Polish business did not have significant problems with Ukrainian products (often being interested in them), the intensified competition scared small Polish farmers.

"In the conditions of approaching parliamentary elections, the weight of their votes significantly increases, and the Polish authorities could not ignore them. Even at the cost of worsening relations with Ukraine," notes the editor of European Pravda.

Parliamentary elections in Poland will take place this autumn.

It means we may face other unpleasant surprises ahead, warns Yurii Panchenko.

The interview of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Lukasz Jasina, for Onet looked alarming. He said there is a "lack of understanding" of the importance of the Volhynia issue for Poles from the President of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Vasyl Zvarych reacted to this interview, calling any attempts to impose the "correct" attitude toward the Volhynia tragedy of 1943 on Ukraine and its president "unacceptable and offensive."

This response was strongly rejected by Polish society, demanding the expulsion of the Ukrainian diplomat.

On July 11th, Poland will commemorate the Day of Remembrance and Martyrdom of the Eastern Borderlands in a month and a half. Moreover, this year marks the 80th anniversary of the events in Volhynia, which Ukrainian historiography refers to as the "Volhynia tragedy" and Polish historiography as the "Volhynia massacre."

Will this anniversary impact the pre-election campaign and, consequently, Ukrainian-Polish relations? The column's author believes it is quite likely.

Sources close to the Ukrainian government note that the Volhynia issue was on the agenda at the recent meeting between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Furthermore, following this meeting, Morawiecki stated that he hopes "this time Kyiv will keep its word."

Interlocutors of European Pravda are convinced that this refers to the expectations of the Polish side that before July 11th, the Ukrainian authorities will make a special statement regarding the events in Volhynia.
Otherwise, the Polish government's statement may be harsher than planned.

"The Ukrainian authorities still have time to prevent the events from unfolding according to the worst-case scenario. Specifically, they can use the friendly relations with President Andrzej Duda to find a format for jointly commemorating the events in Volhynia that either Polish or Ukrainian societies will not negatively perceive," writes Yurii Panchenko.

The situation looks even more complicated after the export ban. The presidential team is resentful of Poland's actions—and they do not hide it.

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