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Polish Truck Drivers’ Border Blockade With Ukraine Hurting Battlefield

Pickup trucks and tourniquets bound for Ukraine’s battlefield are among items stuck in a miles-long line at the border with Poland.

Components to build drones to fight off Russian forces are facing weeks of delays.

Ukrainian charities and companies supplying the war-torn country’s military warn that problems are growing as Polish truck drivers show no sign of ending a border blockade that has stretched past a month.

The Polish protesters argue that their livelihoods are at stake after the European Union relaxed some transport rules and that Ukrainian truckers undercut their business.

While drones will make it to the front line, they’re delayed by two to three weeks, said Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi, operational director of the KOLO foundation, which helps the Ukrainian army with battlefield tech.

“This means that the Russian army will have the ability to kill Ukrainian soldiers and terrorize civilians for several weeks longer,” he said.

Truck drivers in Poland have blocked access roads to border crossings since Nov. 6, creating lines that stretch for more than 30 kilometers (19 miles) and last up to three weeks in freezing temperatures. The protesters insist that they’re not stopping military transports or humanitarian aid into Ukraine.

“This is very puzzling to me, even hard to believe because everybody knows — those who order, those who expedite and those who do the transport — that aid for the military passes through without having to wait at all,” said Waldemar Jaszczur, a protest organizer.

The Polish truckers, meanwhile, say their Ukrainian counterparts are offering lower prices to haul everything from fish to luxury goods across the European Union since getting a temporary waiver on the 27-nation bloc’s transport rules after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

Despite Poland and other nearby countries being some of Ukraine’s biggest supporters in the war, resentment has built from truckers and farmers who are losing business to lower-cost Ukrainian goods and services flowing into the world’s biggest trading bloc. It underscores the challenges of integrating Ukraine into the EU if approved.

Now, the commercial clash is spilling over to the battlefield, the Ukrainian charities say.

About 200 pickup trucks needed to transport ammunition and evacuate the wounded from the front line are blocked at the border because “deliveries have practically stopped,” said Ivan Poberzhniak, head of procurement and logistics for Come Back Alive, Ukraine’s largest charitable organization providing the military with equipment.

The pickup trucks are easy targets for Russia, so it’s impossible to deliver enough of them even normally, he said.

When drivers show documents to the Polish truckers saying the vehicles are for Ukraine’s military, “it does not have a significant impact on the protesters,” Poberzhniak said.

“We must understand that during wartime, supply is needed on a daily basis in all directions,” he said.

Come Back Alive says 3,000 tourniquets also are stuck at the border. It’s been able to deliver drones, generators and batteries from what it has in stock, “but that reserve is running out,” Poberzhniak said.

The group is exploring alternative supply routes, he says, but there are few options, and the military’s unfulfilled requests for equipment are building up.

The protesting truckers assert that not all deliveries declared as military aid are really that. They are urging the EU to reinstate the limits on the number of Ukrainian trucks that can enter the bloc.

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