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Poland says it will no longer supply Ukraine with weapons

Published September 21, 2023last updated September 21, 2023

Warsaw says it is ending its supply of weapons to Ukraine, but that future deliveries could still be on the table. The move comes amid a growing dispute over a grain import ban with Kyiv.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki inspects the site with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal as he receives information from officials during delivering process of the first batch of the Leopard tanks in February, 2023
Poland has been a vital hub in the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and has also supplied arms unilaterallyImage: Polish Chancellery of Prime Ministry/Krystian Maj/AA/picture alliance

The Polish government said on Thursday it will only carry out previously agreed weapons deliveries to Ukraine but has not ruled out deliveries in the future.

The latest comments come on the heels of an announcement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who said on Wednesday that Poland would no longer send weapons to Kyiv and instead focus on its own defense.

Warsaw has also summoned Kyiv's ambassador amid a growing row over grain exports.

What did the Polish prime minister say?

"We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons," Morawiecki said.

"Ukraine is defending itself against Russia's brutal attack, and I understand this situation, but we will defend our country," he said.

His comments were made in response to a question from a reporter on whether Warsaw would continue to support Kyiv despite the disagreement over food exports.

The decrease in supplies was down to a lack of resources rather than a lack of political will, Piotr Buras, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) told DW

"However, it does a great deal of damage to the Ukrainian cause, as this narrative resembles and legitimises those voices in Europe (mainly on the far right) that question the need to supply weapons to Ukraine," he said. 

Poland to carry out previously agreed deliveries

Poland's state assets minister, Jacek Sasin, confirmed the halt but said future deliveries were not out of the question.

"At the moment it is as the prime minister said — in the future, we will see," Sasin told Polish media.

Government spokesperson Piotr Muller said on Thursday that Poland will only carry out previously agreed supplies of arms and ammunition. 

He emphasized Poland's role in supporting Ukraine since Russia launched the war, and said an international aid hub will continue to operate out of Poland.

"In the first months of the war, when other EU countries discussed support, Poland consistently helped during Russia's invasion," Muller told the Polish news agency PAP.

Polish officials push back against criticism

Polish officials defended the move, saying that Warsaw "already sent Ukraine what it had in stocks" and that Poland was faster than other countries to send aid to Kyiv.

"I understand that there is an ongoing, heated debate but we need to see a bigger picture regarding Polish central role in helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion," a Polish official told DW in Brussels, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States has also sought to allay concerns that the move could lead to splintering among Ukraine's allies.

"At the end of the day we're all human and there are moments of tension and there can be frustration on all sides," a senior US government official told reporters. 

"That doesn't mean that there's going to be some dramatic shift in alliance unity or even Poland's fundamental position and determination to support Ukraine for as long as it takes," the official added.

How the war affects Ukraine's wheat exports

Poland summons Ukrainian ambassador

Earlier on Wednesday, Poland said it summoned Kyiv's ambassador over remarks by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking about grain exports, Zelenskyy said some nations feigned solidarity with Ukraine. Warsaw denounced his comments as "unjustified concerning Poland, which has supported Ukraine since the first days of the war."

Poland has played a key role in arming Ukraine through its unilateral supply of military equipment such as MiG-29s and Leopard tanks and by allowing foreign allies to store and transport arms over the Polish border into Ukraine.

It was the first NATO member to pledge fighter jets to Ukraine in March this year and started to make deliveries in early April. Poland is also host to some one million Ukrainian refugees.

What is the grain import ban row?

Tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv have intensified in recent days over Poland's ban on Ukrainian grain imports to protect the interests of its farmers

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shut down Black Sea shipping lanes that were used before the war. Russia agreed to a deal that allowed maritime exports from Ukraine but withdrew in July.

This has resulted in the EU becoming a vital transit route and export destination for Ukrainian grain.

The EU agreed to restrict imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia in May, with the aim of protecting farmers in those countries who complained the imports had caused a slump in prices on local markets.

The measures had meant that the products could keep transiting through the five countries but were not sold on their own markets.

However, the European Commission last week said it was ending the import ban, claiming that "the market distortions in the five member states bordering Ukraine have disappeared."

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia immediately said they would not comply, while Ukraine said it would file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

DW's Rosie Birchard and Teri Schultz contributed reporting from Brussels.

fg, rc/jsi, rs (AFP, LUSA)