EU considering fresh sanctions on Belarus

The European Union is considering imposing new sanctions on Belarus, accusing the country of deliberately encouraging migrants to cross into the EU.

Thousands of migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere have gathered along Poland's border with Belarus in freezing weather. Poland's Ministry of National Defense has stepped up border patrols by deploying about 15,000 troops in the area.

Visiting Poland on Wednesday, European Council President Charles Michel confirmed the EU's commitment to jointly deal with the problem, including a possible expansion of sanctions against Belarus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. She asked Putin to exert his influence on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to resolve the situation.

The Kremlin says Putin proposed that the EU and Belarus hold direct discussions, indicating that Russia wants the EU to take responsibility for settling the problem.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov rejected suggestions by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that Russia bears responsibility for the crisis, calling them absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable.