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WARSAW: Polish leader Donald Tusk said on Monday his country was willing to “co-finance” exports of Ukrainian grain to third countries, in a bid to defuse tensions over low-priced Ukrainian farm goods.

Disgruntled Polish farmers have been blocking border crossings with Ukraine and clogging highways to protest at what they say is unfair competition from goods entering the Polish market from their war-torn neighbour to the east.

Speaking alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who visited Warsaw on his way back from Ukraine, Prime Minister Tusk said they had held talks about how to “radically increase” Ukrainian grain exports to poorer countries who needed them.

Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky

“Poland is ready to actively participate in, and co-finance, such activities,” Tusk told reporters without elaborating on the scheme.

Russia has blocked crucial Black Sea trade routes used by Ukraine to export its farm produce.

In a bid to help Kyiv economically, the European Union decided in 2022 to drop tariffs on Ukrainian goods transiting the 27-nation bloc by road.

But logistical problems mean much of Ukraine’s cereal exports has accumulated in EU-member Poland, undercutting local producers.

Tusk said that moves to increase grain exports from Ukraine to other countries “could be a great relief for Polish and European farmers, for Ukraine and for those who are waiting for cheap food in other regions of the world”.

Poland’s ties with Ukraine have become increasingly strained over the border blockades and the dispute over grain, with at least four incidents of Polish farmers spilling Ukrainian grain from lorries and freight trains.

On Sunday, eight train carriages carrying with Ukrainian corn were prised open and tonnes of grain spilled onto rail tracks.

Kyiv responded by urging Warsaw to put an end to “impunity” over the “acts of vandalism”.

Tusk said the fresh tensions over grain constituted a “critical moment” in relations between the two countries.

He urged the European Union and Ukraine to work together to find a solution.

“It would be the greatest idiocy in the history of our nations if we fell out now and didn’t come up with a solution to this matter,” Tusk said.

“Because we need each other like never before.”

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