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WARSAW: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Wednesday cautioned that the EU member would ban additional Ukrainian imports if Kyiv were to escalate their conflict over a grain embargo.

He issued the warning after Ukrainian deputy trade minister Taras Kachka told Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily that his country would introduce a ban on Polish produce in the coming days.

“I am warning Ukraine’s authorities. Because if they are to escalate the conflict like that, we will add additional products to the ban on imports into Poland,” Morawiecki told Polsat News television.

Ukraine rejects Turkish call for Kyiv to soften stance on grain deal

Kyiv on Monday said it had filed lawsuits at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against its three EU neighbours – Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – over their bans on Ukrainian grain imports.

The Central European countries went against a decision by the European Commission last week to end the import ban.

“Ukrainian authorities do not understand the degree to which Poland’s farming industry has been destabilised. We are protecting Polish farmers,” Morawiecki said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has closed off Black Sea shipping lanes used before the war, resulting in the EU becoming a major transit route and export destination for Ukrainian grain.

In May, the EU agreed to restrict imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, seeking to protect farmers there who blamed the imports for a slump in prices on local markets.

The measures allowed the products to keep transiting through the five countries, but stopped them being sold on the local market.

On Friday, the European Commission said it was ending the import ban, arguing that “the market distortions in the five member states bordering Ukraine have disappeared”.

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia immediately announced they would defy the move.

The issue is particularly sensitive in Poland, where elections take place next month.

The current populist right-wing government of the Law and Justice party has strong support in farming regions.

The conflict has strained Ukraine’s relations with Poland, which has been a staunch supporter of its neighbour since the Russian invasion.

“We were the first to do a lot for Ukraine and that’s why we expect for them to understand our interests,” Morawiecki told Polsat News.

“Of course we respect all of their problems, but for us, the interests of our farmers are the most important thing.”

Poland is a major supplier of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and hosts some one million Ukrainian refugees, who have benefited from various kinds of state aid.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller said that Poland would likely let those benefits expire in large part next year.

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