Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra released a statement Monday in which he admitted to lying about attending a 2006 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The revelation could be politically damaging to Zijlstra on the eve of a scheduled visit to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

On multiple occasions, Zijlstra said he was present at Putin’s country retreat a dozen years ago when he was an employee at energy giant Royal Dutch Shell. Putin is reported to have said at the meeting that he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states – all former Soviet republics – as part of “Greater Russia”.

In a written statement released Monday, Zijlstra admitted that he was, in fact, not present at the meeting, but had heard of the story from a third person who was in attendance. According to the Associated Press, Zijlstra publicly discussed Putin’s comments and took credit for having overheard the discussion because he considered his seemingly irredentist words to be “geopolitically important”.

“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.

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