Polish truck drivers blocked access roads to three border crossings along the Ukrainian border on Monday afternoon as they protested government inaction at a loss of business to foreign competitors.
Ukrainian truckers have been free to cross the border throughout the ongoing conflict with Russia without the need to obtain permits, and Poles are complaining about the lack of equal access to the Ukrainian market.
Polish trucker associations also believe that Belarusian and Russian logistics companies have been setting up legal entities in Poland to bypass sanctions and undercut Polish transport businesses.
“We are protesting because of the disruptions in road transport to Polish carriers caused by the uncontrolled inflow of Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian companies (…) those with eastern capital,” said Karol Rychlik, head of a trucker association, as cited by Reuters.
Authorities estimated that dozens of people with trucks were blocking the road at the Hrebenne crossing. At Dorohusk, tractor units without trailers were also set up. Personal vehicles and trucks carrying food, fuel, and humanitarian aid were allowed to pass through the protesting group. The blockade only covered the commercial transport of other goods, allowing only one truck per hour to pass.
According to President of the Transport and Logistics Poland Employers’ Association Maciej Wroński, Polish transport to and from Ukraine has been virtually lost to Ukrainian carriers, who have significantly increased the number of transports since the beginning of the Russian assault on Ukraine. He noted that the Ukrainian market was never significant for the entire Polish industry, but it provided jobs for carriers from the eastern Polish regions, which are now facing bankruptcy.
Before the Russian aggression, Ukrainian trucks could only enter Poland based on a special permit. After Feb. 24, 2022, this requirement was lifted. Despite the fact that Ukrainian companies cannot transport goods between European Union countries, Polish carriers claim that no one checks this.
“Most of these vehicles arrive empty, pick up loads from Poland, and take them all over Europe. They are simply taking our work,” said Bartosz Jasiński, owner of a transport company.
The protest was criticized by the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw, Vasyl Zvarych, who described the blockade as “a painful stab in the back for Ukraine, suffering from Russian aggression.”
He highlighted the threat to the solidarity corridors between Ukraine and the EU and appealed for an end to the blockade.
This year, nearly 900,000 Ukrainian trucks have already entered Poland. Before the war, there were 180,000 per year.