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Ukraine to challenge EU neighbors over grain import bans

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A grain combine harvester collecting wheat near Novoazovsk outside Mariupol, Ukraine (AFP)

Ukraine says it will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against unilateral grain-import bans imposed by the country's three European Union neighbors.

On Friday, the EU announced plans to suspend a temporary ban placed on the export of Ukrainian grain to a select number of countries in Eastern Europe. In defiance of the bloc’s leadership, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary said Friday they will extend the ban.

Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told Bloomberg on Monday that Kiev will file a complaint to the organization to challenge the ban.

“We are asking for acknowledgment that these actions are illegitimate.”

Kachka  said the government is also considering retaliatory measures that may affect products such as onions and apples from Poland and cars from Hungary.

The temporary measure adopted in May saw a ban placed on the imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia in a move to protect their farming sectors from cheap imports.

The European Commission announced that it would let existing restrictions expire.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, however, said that they will extend the ban "despite lack of their [the EU] agreement.”

The issue of grain imports has now triggered a diplomatic spat between Ukraine and Poland, which is a major supplier of military aid to Ukraine in the war with Russia.

Ukraine, a major supplier of grain, has been relying on its neighbors to send exports through, while it has been unable to use, Black Sea routes, since Russia launched its “special military operation” against the country in February last year.

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