Dutch FM Resigns After Lying About Putin Scheme

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Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned on Tuesday over lying about a 2006 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of a debate on his position in the Dutch lower house of parliament.

Opposition MPs said they did not believe Rutte had so under-estimated the situation and said they could not imagine that the prime minister had not discussed such an explosive situation with others.

The incident has embarrassed Prime Minister Mark Rutte's four-party coalition government, which has a precarious parliamentary majority of just one seat. "I underestimated the impact of this lie".

The handling of Zijlstra's case is the first serious test for Rutte's coalition since it took office in October. Zijlstra was supposed to fly to Russia later on Tuesday for a meeting with his Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, reports Xinhua.

The tragedy in which all 298 people on board died, a lot of them Dutch, has soured ties and led to accusations that Moscow is not being truthful about the events.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a Facebook post confirmed the meeting had been canceled.

The pressure on him was too high after the 49-year-old FM had admitted in Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant on Monday that he lied about having been present at a meeting with Putin in 2006.

"I wanted to tell this story convincingly without revealing my source, it was obviously the wrong choice".

A former Shell contractor, Zijlstra had told members of his Liberal VVD party at a congress in May 2016 that he was there "in the background as an assistant".

"Putin "wants to go back to a "Greater Russia" and his answer was that it included Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States", Zijlstra had claimed".

"In the Netherlands, Russia is being blamed for disseminating disinformation".

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