DUTCH foreign minister, Halbe Zijlstra, has admitted publicly to lying about his attendance at a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Zijlstra has issued a statement confirming the admission he made in an interview published in Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

His comments have come as he prepares for his first visit to Russia as a member of the government.

He has in the past said he was present as an employee of energy giant Shell at Putin’s country retreat in 2006.

At the meeting, the Russian president said that he considers Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states to be part of a “Greater Russia”.

In a written statement, Zijlstra said that he was not present at the meeting, but heard a 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.

He is due to fly to Moscow for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.