Slovak truckers to block Ukraine crossing, joining Polish protests

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian trucks are parked near the Poland-Ukraine border, near the village of Korczowa

(Reuters) - Slovak truckers will block the main border crossing with Ukraine from Friday, the country's truckers association UNAS said, joining Polish protests to win restrictions against Ukrainian drivers.

Polish truckers have been blocking several crossings with Ukraine since Nov. 6 to demand tougher conditions for Ukrainian peers.

Polish and Slovak truckers complain Ukrainian truckers offer cheaper prices for their services and also transport goods within the European Union, rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.

Slovak drivers staged a symbolic protest earlier this month but will begin their blockade at the Vysne Nemecke/Uzhhorod crossing from 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Friday.

"The purpose of the protest is to join truck carriers from Poland," UNAS said in a statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday. "We cannot leave them alone in the fight."

They say their business has been undercut since truckers from Ukraine gained exemptions from seeking permits to cross following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Vysne Nemecke is the only crossing on the Slovakia-Ukraine border open to heavy trucks. UNAS said its blockade would not restrict humanitarian aid, military support or fuel and chilled food deliveries.

Polish truckers started protests this month, demanding the EU reintroduce a permit system for Ukrainian truckers entering the bloc and for EU truckers entering Ukraine, with exemptions for humanitarian aid and military supplies.

Ukraine says the protest - which has left over a thousand lorries stranded for days in queues that stretch for miles (km) - is damaging its fragile war-time economy by hampering exports and stopping supplies of essentials like motor vehicle gas (LPG) from entering the country.

Kyiv also says humanitarian aid has been blocked, which protesters deny.

EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said on Wednesday that Ukraine and the EU could not be "taken hostage" by Polish truckers' blockades, calling the situation "unacceptable".

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Sandra Maler)