Polish farmers protests outside Tusk’s office, burn tyres

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Thousands of Polish farmers protested outside the prime minister’s office on Wednesday, burning tyres and throwing firecrackers as they demanded a halt to cheap imports and environmental regulations they say harm their livelihoods.

Some of the protesters carried a coffin bearing a sign saying “farmer, lived 20 years, killed by the Green Deal” as  they thronged the street, blowing horns and holding Polish flags aloft before they planned to march on parliament.

Elsewhere in the country, they blocked roads. Television footage showed tractors on the outskirts of Warsaw being stopped from entering the city.

Farmers across the European Union have been calling for changes to restrictions placed on them by the bloc’s Green Deal plan to tackle climate change and for customs duties on imports of agricultural products from Ukraine that were waived after Russia’s invasion to be reimposed.

In Poland, this has created a delicate balancing act for Donald Tusk’s government in a year where it faces both local and European elections, as it seeks to address farmers’ concerns while also maintaining its staunch support for Kyiv.

The farmers, who were making good on their promise to return to Warsaw after thousands of them marched through the city a week earlier, were now backed by Poland’s biggest labour union, NSZZ Solidarnosc, as well as hunters and forestry workers.

“Miners, steel workers, automotive, food industry, and many other industries are here,” the union’s leader, Piotr Duda, said through a bullhorn, addressing protesters in front of Tusk’s office.

“The most important thing is that we are together, because we have one common demand: down with the Green Deal, down with the green venom.”

Tusk has said that market disruptions were not only caused by agricultural products from Ukraine, but also those from Russia and its ally Belarus.

On Monday, he said Poland planned to ask the European Union to ban imports of agricultural products from Russia and Belarus.

The prime minister has invited farmer leaders for talks on Saturday.