24 Nov 2023 14:32

Kiev to start voluntary evacuation of Ukrainian drivers from border with Poland

MOSCOW. Nov 24 (Interfax) - Ukraine's Restoration Ministry is starting to collect data as it prepares to evacuate Ukrainian drivers stranded on the blocked border with Poland but without their vehicles, Deputy Restoration Minister Sergei Derkach said.

"We have started gathering data to evacuate our drivers. [...] We will evacuate all those who wish to be evacuated," Ukrainian media outlets quoted Derkach as saying on social media.

Drivers are being asked to agree to be returned to Ukraine without their vehicles, he said.

"We have raised the issue of food supplies, the rotation of ambulances, fire engines, and proper sanitary conditions several times at the working and official levels. However, all this is missing. Instead, we continue to see messages about the approval of the continuation of the protest by the local authorities," he said.

"We have proposed a number of compromises. The Polish government and the European Commission are aware of them. But it is possible to agree on something only when there is a desire to negotiate, and not only the desire to block the border," Derkach said.

The Reconstruction Ministry has also sent an official letter containing a proposal to set up an EU monitoring group on the border, the deputy minister said. Such a group will be in charge of monitoring the situation outside of the blocked border crossings: whether hazardous cargo is being allowed to pass, how humanitarian aid is crossing the border, as well as the conditions the Ukrainian drivers are in at the moment.

Polish truckers began blocking a fourth crossing point, Shegini-Medyka, on the Ukraine-Poland border on Thursday. The number of blocked crossings on the border with Poland may increase to five, including Nizhankovichi-Malhowice, the State Border Service said.

Rafal Mekler, leader of the Polish haulers blocking the border checkpoints, said on Thursday that the protesters are demanding a return to the system of permits for Ukrainian truckers in the European Union, a measure that will not apply to humanitarian and military assistance, as well as separate corridors and a first come, first served basis for the departure of empty trucks with EU license plates at checkpoints.

"We get this on paper and we leave the border immediately. The ball's in Ukraine's court," Meckler said.

A second Ukrainian trucker died while waiting to cross the Ukrainian-Polish border, Ukrainian media said, citing Ukraine's Ambassador in Warsaw Vasily Zvarych. The Ukrainian embassy urges the Polish Foreign Ministry to unblock the traffic on the border.

"The embassy urgently forwarded another official note to the Foreign Ministry of Poland, demanding that the movement of trucks be unblocked. The relevant signals were also sent to the Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration," Zvarych said on social media on Thursday.

The restriction on the movement of trucks endangers people's life and health and poses a threat to security and traffic on the roads, thus, under Polish laws, "providing direct grounds for dispersing the strike by the local authority that issued the permit for holding it," the ambassador said.