THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In a potentially damaging admission on the eve of his first visit to Russia as a member of the Dutch government, Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra on Monday acknowledged lying about attending a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2006.
Zijlstra issued a statement confirming the admission he made in an interview published in Monday’s edition of respected Dutch daily De Volkskrant.
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.”
In a written statement, Zijlstra said that he was not present at the meeting in 2006 but heard the story from somebody who was there. He said he considered Putin’s statements so geopolitically important that he spoke about them publicly and took credit for hearing the comments as a way of protecting his source.
“The manner in which I wanted to protect my source and underscore my message about Russia was not sensible, that is crystal clear,” Zijlstra said.
Zijlstra is due to fly to Moscow Tuesday for a meeting Wednesday with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.