Russian embassy criticizes Netherlands after minister admits lying about Putin meeting
The Russian embassy released a statement criticizing the Netherlands following Minister Halbe Zijlstra of Foreign Affairs admitting that he lied about attending a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2006. The embassy accuses the Netherlands of "persistently" propagating an image of Russia having aggressive intentions to the Dutch public. "As we can see, this is the reason behind this whole story with the alleged meeting between Minister Zijlstra and President Putin", the statement, in broadcaster NOS' possession, reads.
On Monday Zijlstra admitted in an interview with the Volkskrant that, contrary to what he said several times before, he did not actually attend a meeting with Putin in 2006. He lied about this because he wanted to protect his source, who was at the meeting. At the same time he found it important to make what was said at the meeting public. According to Zijltra, Putin is striving for a Great Russia, that includes the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
"I only told lies about myself", Zijlstra said to NU.nl on Monday. "What has been said about Russia has been confirmed by [the source]. Also to the Volkskrant. That is not incorrect information."
Zijlstra's source, former Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, came forward to say that Zijlstra misinterpreted what he told him about the meeting.
According to the Russian embassy's statement, the Netherlands is trying to attribute great power ambitions and the desire to recreate the Soviet Empire to Russia. "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 NATO military infrastructure eastward, therefore consciously provoking military confrontation", the statement reads.
"In the Netherlands Russia is being blamed for disseminating disinformation. Dutch officials are constantly making such unfounded statements. Sadly, Dutch media outlets are willingly spreading the idea conceived in someone's inflamed imagination that Russian authorities are obsessed with creating a 'Great Russia'. Moreover it is presented as something self-evident and not requiting any proof. Isn't this an example of fake news directed against our country."
The statement ends with the hope that "common sense will prevail" and that the Netherlands will again see Russia as an "indispensable partner in the struggle against new challenges and threats". The full statement can be seen here.
On Tuesday afternoon Zijlstra is facing the Tweede Kamer in a debate on this whole affair. Whether he will keep his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs is not yet clear. Even if the entire opposition votes for him to step down, that will only be 74 votes - two short of a majority. If this happens, Zijlstra will officially be able to stay on as Minister. But his job will be that much harder with such an unstable relationship with the lower house of Dutch parliament.
Zijlstra is set to fly to Russia later on Tuesday. He has a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.