Dutch minister to be questioned about false claim of meeting Putin

Halbe Zijlstra had only been foreign minister for four months

Halbe Zijlstra had only been foreign minister for four months

The confidence vote came after Mr Rutte faced a barrage of questions from Dutch MPs about why he had not informed parliament sooner about Mr Zijlstra's false claims to have attended a 2006 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He caused an even bigger stir Monday, admitting he made the whole thing up.

For years, Zijlstra has been saying he attended a meeting where Putin said he thought of former Soviet Union members Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic states as part of "Greater Russia".

Zijlstra "borrowed" the story from Van der Veer and concluded from his words that there was a threat of war with Russian Federation.

"It was clearly a wrong choice", he said as he announced his resignation. And only by being credible can I represent the interests of the Netherlands.

The rare motion was brought by Mr Rutte's arch-foe, far-right MP Geert Wilders, who slammed the mounting scandal over foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra as "unacceptable".

In an interview conducted by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant* last Sunday and published on Monday, Zijlstra admitted he faked the story of Putin's Greater Russia plans, that he had not been at the meeting at all, but that he "borrowed" the statements from "a source who appreciates the fact that he guarantees them anonymity".

"The interpretation in an aggressive manner is not mine, nor my use of words", van der Veer explained. "I can't take that away, that's the truth and I can't turn back the clock", he said.

"Staying on would undermine the credibility of the Cabinet". Not only would it invalidate any criticism of Russian Federation, it would also damage the campaign against fake news.

Zijlstra was supposed to fly to Russia later on Tuesday for a meeting with his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

Politicans grilled the Dutch Prime Minister, who had previously defended Mr Zijlstra despite having known since late January that he had not actually met the Russian president.

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