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.

Zijlstra admitted on Monday that he had lied in 2016 when he said he had attended a meeting a decade earlier at which Putin reportedly spoke of plans for regional expansion.

He acknowledged he was not at the meeting, but insisted he had heard about Putin’s remarks from a reliable source he needed to protect.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement that Zijlstra’s allegations “do not hold up against any criticism and are only intended to spread false perceptions of Russia’s intentions”.

“Russia is being blamed for disseminating disinformation,” Moscow’s embassy in The Hague said in a statement.

“Dutch officials are constantly making such unfounded statements... Isn’t this an example of fake news directed against our country?”

As VVD leader in parliament, Zijlstra had said publicly in 2016 that he was at a meeting at Putin’s dacha, saying the president had spoken about his Great Russia aspirations, according to Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. On Monday, Zijlstra admitted to that newspaper he didn’t attend the meeting, adding he had borrowed the story to protect the source who was at the gathering. On Tuesday, De Volkskrant said that source was former Royal Dutch Shell Plc CEO Jeroen van der Veer, who told the newspaper Zijlstra had misinterpreted the comments.

The relationship between the Netherlands and Russia has been strained since the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard. Dutch media had reported that one of the topics on the agenda of the now-canceled meeting had been MH17.

Russia has characterized Zijlstra’s statements about Putin and "Great Russia" as “fake news” and part of a campaign to portray the country as an aggressor.

During his campaign for the March 2017 election, Mr Zijlstra claimed he had personally heard Mr Putin speak of creating a "Greater Russia" in 2006.