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Dutch PM Rutte Survives No-Confidence Vote After FM Steps Down

Dutch PM Rutte Survives No-Confidence Vote After FM Steps Down

Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned on Tuesday after admitting that he had lied about attending a meeting in 2006 at which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin had outlined a strategy for building a greater Russia.

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.

Prime minister Mark Rutte survived a no confidence vote on Tuesday evening over his handling of the Halbe Zijlstra affair.

Zijlstra claimed that he had been hiding in a back room of Russian President Vladimir Putin's dacha when Putin told somebody else he meant to take over Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and all the Baltic states to form a "Greater Russia".

"It was an error of judgment on my part", Rutte said."I didn't think this affair would have such a political fallout".

"Lying is a sin but not a mortal sin", said the Premier, adding that in fact the statement of the foreign Minister are true.

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Zijlstra had only been in post for four months, and the dramatic events came just hours before he was due to leave on an official trip to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Stepping down, Zijlstra told MPs on February 13 that the credibility of the country's foreign minister must be "beyond doubt, both inside and outside of the country".

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

Trying to attribute to Russian Federation "great-power ambitions and the desire to recreate "the Soviet Empire" do not hold up", the embassy added, saying such claims were "conceived in someone's inflamed imagination".

The meeting scheduled for Wednesday would have been Zijlstra's first trip to Russian Federation as foreign minister and was considered politically important in the Netherlands, with the investigation into the downed flight MH17, in which 193 Dutch citizens died, high on the agenda.