Friday, January 25, 2008

Polish customs strike halts hundreds of trucks on Ukraine and Belarus borders

Hundreds of trucks lined up on Poland's border with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia Saturday, as a strike by Polish customs officers stretched into its sixth day.
Fourteen checkpoints on the border with the three ex-Soviet states have been clogged as only a handful of Polish officers showed up for work, according
to Russia's NTV television.

Only drivers with nothing to declare and vehicles with diplomatic plates are being allowed through, the report said.

A 43-year old Ukrainian driver was burned alive Friday at the Krakovitz checkpoint after a short circuit sparked a fire in his truck, and a Polish driver died of cardiac arrest at the Yagodin checkpoint Wednesday after standing in line for three days, said Volodymyr Sheremet, spokesman for the western Ukrainian border unit.

«Things are very tense here,» Sheremet said.
At the border with the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, dozens of cargo trains have been unable to move into Poland, NTV said.

At the Belarusian town of Brest, a major East-West cargo crossing point, only one customs booth was operating Saturday, Russia's Vesti 24 television said.
One driver, Alexander Stroganov, was quoted as saying that trucks stretched back more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border.
Polish custom guards started their work slowdown on Monday, demanding higher salaries. They have threatened to stop all customs inspections Monday if their demands are not met.
The Polish government says it can only afford a third of what the customs officers are demanding.