Polish farmers' border protest: some trucks get checked, no traffic jams - BNS REPORT

  • 2024-03-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – As Polish farmers started partially blocking a road at the former Kalvarija and Budzisko border checkpoints on the Lithuanian-Polish border on Friday, trucks leaving Lithuania are being checked from around 10 a.m.: they are being diverted to a separate lane, and suspicious trucks are being diverted to a special parking lot where they are being inspected by officers.

Some 30-40 protesters are present in this area and they are watching as Polish police, customs and road transport inspectors check truck documents, which take up to 5 minutes. No trucks have been detained. There are no traffic jams on the road and cars can pass freely. 

Karol Pieczynski, one of the protest organizers, says their aim is not to block traffic, but only to draw attention to the problems of the agricultural sector. He says this is a new form of protest Poles have not used before.

"Today's protest will look like our joint truck checks in cooperation with the Polish authorities, with the customs, with the transport inspectorate, to see what they are transporting. We hope that Lithuanian farmers will join in soon, maybe not today, since we want to see what's in the trucks," Pieczynski told journalists.

Speaking with BNS on the eve of the protest, he said vehicles would be checked 24/7 as farmers will take 12-hour "shifts", and officers will be checking heavy goods vehicles.

Pawel Iwaszko, another organizer of the border protest, says that several hundred tons of Russian grain may have entered Lithuania and Poland through Latvia.

"We have information that grain from Russia has entered Lithuania and Poland, and it was certainly several hundred tons, because the grain was transported through Latvia. And from Latvia it was delivered to Lithuania and then transported to Poland," he told reporters at the border on Friday. 

"We are checking for Ukrainian grain in those trucks. It enters Lithuania from Poland, the documents are changed there and it then enters Poland from Lithuania as European Union goods."

Genadijus Mackelis, Lithuania's consul in Sejny, says the number of protesters is not high yet.

"Right now, we see a small number of protesters. They were supposed to come with their heavy equipment and block the roads, but this has been avoided thanks to the dialogue and communication with our partners in Poland, thanks to the efforts of our institutions," Mackelis told reporters at the border, adding that farmers might have probably been persuaded by the arguments that there are now grounds to speak about grain fraud.

A BNS reporter at the scene reports that traffic is being diverted to a bypass road leading to Budzisko and then it is re-entering the highway that is much wider and has space for cars to stop.

As they failed to reach agreement with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Polish farmers plan to partially block a road at the Lithuanian-Polish border for a week from Friday and check what trucks are transporting from Lithuania to Poland.