Belarus leader threatens to stop gas to EU

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to stop natural gas flows to the European Union in a dispute over migrants massed along its border with Poland.

Thousands of migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere have gathered along the border in freezing weather, prompting Poland to deploy troops in the area.

The EU is accusing Belarus of deliberately encouraging migrants to cross into the bloc, and is considering imposing new sanctions on the former Soviet republic.

Lukashenko reacted sharply on Thursday, and suggested that he may halt natural gas flows from Russia to the EU through his country.

Russia, Belarus's close ally, has stepped in.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson earlier criticized the EU for considering sanctions, calling the measure a common tactic for Western countries.

Russia's Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it had sent two strategic bombers to Belarus's airspace for joint patrols, in an apparent attempt to keep the EU in check.