Dutch foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra has admitted lying about attending a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin as he prepares for his first visit to Russia as a member of the government.

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

He has in the past said he was present as an employee of energy giant Shell at Mr Putin’s country retreat in 2006, when the Russian president said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a “Greater Russia”.

In a written statement, Mr Zijlstra said that he was not present at the meeting, but heard a story from somebody who was there. He said he considered Mr 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,” Mr Zijlstra said.

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