Dutch FM resigns after lying about Putin's 'Greater Russia' comment
Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Netherlands' foreign minister was facing a tough debate in Parliament Tuesday following his admission that he lied about attending a meeting hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin at his country retreat more than a decade ago.

But, Minister Zijlstra just confirmed he is stepping down at the beginning of the debate in the House of Representatives.

He called it "by far the biggest mistake of my political life, the Netherlands deserves a foreign minister who is beyond any doubt."

As FD.nl reports, on Monday, the coalition seemed to want to support Zijlstra. But that became difficult when the Volkskrant reported that Zijlstra not only lied about the source of Putin's message - not he, but then Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer was present at the meeting - but that Zijlstra also misunderstood the content of the message interpreted.

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In a shocking admission, Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said he lied when he claimed to have heard President Vladimir Putin describing an ambition to unify Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states and Kazakhstan into a single super-state to rival the influence of the former Soviet Union.

Zijlstra claimed at a party conference in 2016 that he had overheard Putin outlining the grand plan for a "Greater Russia" in 2006 during a gathering of businessmen. At the time, Zijlstra was working at Shell, RT reports.

Dutch

In the original retelling of the story, Zijlstra said he had been in a back room of a dacha (country house) when he heard Putin define "Great Russia" as "Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states," adding that "Kazakhstan was nice to have."

The story was questioned by the newspaper Volkskrant, however, which quickly discovered that Zijlstra had not even attended the 2006 business meeting in Russia, despite being part of the Shell delegation. When confronted about this, the minister acknowledged that he had lied, and said he was simply trying to protect a source, which also ended up being a lie.

 



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