Dutch foreign minister resigns after admitting he lied about meeting with Putin

Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijlstra attends a press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin Germany. In a potentially damaging admission on the eve of his

Dutch Leader Survives Confidence Vote After Minister Admits Lying About Putin Meeting

The Dutch foreign affairs minister has resigned a day after admitting he lied about attending a meeting hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin more than a decade ago.

Still, the foreign minister insists it was conceivably true, because he had heard somebody claim to have overheard Putin saying something to that effect, which appears to have been the origin of his own fanciful story.

He had been due to meet Wednesday with Lavrov to discuss among other things the 2014 downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels over Ukraine.

"This can only be heard from those who are interested in presenting Russia as an enemy and who under the pretext of the notorious "Russian threat" keep pushing North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military infrastructure eastwards, therefore consciously provoking military confrontation", the Russian statement said.

The tragedy in which all 298 people on board died, majority Dutch, has soured ties, and led to accusations that Moscow is not presenting all the evidence it has to a Dutch-led criminal inquiry.

Contrary to his earlier claims, Zijlstra admitted he was not present at the meeting and that the reason he made up the story about his presence was to protect his source.

"It was clearly a wrong choice", he said as he announced his resignation.

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During the meeting Putin allegedly spoke about his definition of a "Greater Russia".

"The manner in which I wanted to protect my source and underscore my message about Russian Federation was not sensible, that is crystal clear", Zijlstra said.

A member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal VVD party - the leading party in the country's ruling coalition - Zijlstra has in the past said he was present as an employee of energy giant Shell at Putin's country retreat when the Russian president said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a "Greater Russia".

The "Greater Russia" scandal has finished Zijlstra's four month-term as the foreign minister of the Netherlands, as he assumed the post only back in October 2017.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement that Mr Zijlstra's allegations "do not hold up against any criticism and are only meant to spread false perceptions of Russia's intentions".

"Russia is being blamed for disseminating disinformation", the embassy said in a statement. "Isn't this an example of fake news directed against our country?"

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