The Russian embassy in The Hague has condemned anti-Russian propaganda, in its first comment after revelations that foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra’s lied about a meeting with president Vladimir Putin.
Zijlstra was fired because he lied about overhearing Putin define “Greater Russia” as “Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states,” then adding that “Kazakhstan was nice to have”.
In a two page statement released in English, the embassy said it considered Zijlstra’s comments a “domestic matter” but adds that it “cannot ignore how perceptions of Russia’s aggressive intentions are being persistently propagated in Dutch public opinion”.
“The attempts to attribute to Russia “great-power ambitions” and the desire to recreate “the Soviet Empire” do not hold up against any criticism,” the statement said. The “Russian threat” has been invented to boost NATO’s military advances eastwards.
Dutch media was singled out for “willingly spreading the idea conceived in someone’s inflamed imagination that Russian authorities are obsessed with creating a ‘Great Russia’.”
Dutch home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren accused Russian security services last December of trying to influence public opinion in the Netherlands with “fake news”.
Zijlstra’s resignation on Tuesday after admitting to lying, triggered a political bombshell and a vote of no-confidence in the country’s prime minister.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte survived the vote brought by PVV leader Geert Wilders, but the scandal threatens to undermine Rutte’s fledgling and fragile four-party coalition.
Zijlstra’s resignation came just hours before he was due to leave for Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss among other things the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
The tragedy in which all 298 people on board died, most of them Dutch, has soured ties and led to accusations that The Hague is not being truthful about the events.
PVV leader and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders has told Elsevier magazine he plans to visit Russia next year to offer a counterweight to the “hysterical Russia phobia” which exists in parts of the Netherlands.
Wilders revealed that he has been holding talks with the Russian ambassador in The Hague about a potential programme for his trip.
“Russia is not an enemy and we should not turn it into one,” he said. Russia is an important ally in the war on terrorism and mass African immigration, he told the Dutch magazine.
Wilders said that he was planning to visit the Russian parliament to “show that we have patriots here as well” adding that the Netherlands can learn a lot from Russia about patriotism.