Polish farmers to start blocking road on Lithuanian-Polish border

  • 2024-03-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Polish farmers are set to partially block a key road on the Lithuanian-Polish border for a week from Friday after failing to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

They are planning to set up a blockade at the former Kalvarija-Budzisko checkpoint border checkpoint to check what trucks are transporting from Lithuania to Poland. 

"After the prime minister's meeting with farmers, there are no agreements for now. They will be sought in the coming days," Karol Pieczynski, the organizer of the protest at the border with Lithuania, told BNS on Thursday evening.

"Our protest may therefore be even more necessary than before. Tomorrow we will act as agreed," he added. 

Pieczynski said that farmers were planning to rotate shifts every 12 hours to maintain round-the-clock checks of vehicles for a week.

"The customs and tax inspectorate, the police and the road transport inspectorate will check heavy goods vehicles such as curtainsiders, tanker trucks and silage trailers together with farmers," he said. 

On the Polish side, farmers will check how much Russian and Ukrainian grain is entering the country, according to the organizer. 

"Polish farmers want to check how much grain actually crosses the border and what its origin is, because there is a serious risk that grain from Russia, not only from Ukraine, will enter the country," he said.

However, Algis Baravykas, vice-chairman of the Lithuanian Chamber of Agriculture, believes that Polish farmers will not block the roads drastically and that they will not stop and check trucks transiting through Lithuania. 

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (SBGS) and the police said on the eve of the protest that they would be prepared for various scenarios on Friday and would monitor the situation.

"The police will be the main authority; they will redirect flows, regulate traffic and ensure public order on the territory (of Lithuania)," Giedrius Misutis, the SBGS spokesman, told BNS. 

"Since there is no checkpoint there, border guards are not on permanent duty, but if the police need help and if queues form, several border guard crews will be there," he added. 

Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of Lithuania's National Crisis Management Center, has said that he will go to the border on Friday morning with a delegation and will be at the scene when the road blockade starts.

Polish farmers are also blocking border crossings and motorways with Ukraine in protest against what they say is unfair competition from goods entering the Polish market from its war-torn eastern neighbor.

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Kestutis Navickas said on Thursday that Polish farmers were thus trying to draw the attention of the authorities. One of the ways, he said, is by blocking the key international transport corridor to the Baltic countries.  

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said earlier this week that Polish farmers’ actions resemble "hybrid operations which are intensively exploited by Russian propaganda".

After attacking Ukraine, Russia blocked key Black Sea trade routes used by Ukraine to export agricultural produce. In an effort to help Kyiv economically, the European Union decided in 2022 to lift tariffs on Ukrainian goods transiting through the bloc's 27 member states.

However, due to logistics problems, a large part of Ukrainian grain exports has accumulated in Poland, reducing prices for local products.

Tensions between Poland and Ukraine are mounting as a result of border blockades and the grain issue. There have been at least four incidents when Polish farmers spilled Ukrainian grain from trucks and freight trains.