In a potentially damaging admission on the eve of his first visit to Russia as a member of the Dutch government, Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra has acknowledged lying about attending a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2006.

Zijlstra issued a statement Monday confirming the admission he made to respected Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

Zijlstra has in the past said he was present as an employee of energy giant Shell at Putin's country retreat when the Russian president said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a "Greater Russia."

Zijlstra says in his statement that he was not present at the meeting in 2006 but heard the story from somebody who was there. He says he took credit for the comments as a way of protecting his source.