Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has admitted he underestimated the scale of the problem with Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra lying about his presence at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2006 when the top diplomat first confessed to him about it two weeks ago, reported Dutch News.
"I understood it was a sin, but not a mortal sin," said the Dutch Prime Minister.
He admitted that Zijlstra told him the truth two weeks ago, but decided that Minister could keep his post, since his actions were properly motivated.
Halbe Zijlstra handed in his resignation on February 13, since in his opinion, the lie he told may negatively impact the work of the Foreign Ministry. He had held this office for only 4 months.
Mark Rutte was highly criticized by the opposition for his silence about such an important matter and faced a vote of non-confidence, which, however, ended overwhelmingly in the Prime Minister's favor.
Zijlstra earlier admitted during an interview that he lied about being present at the meeting with the Russian President in 2006, where he allegedly said that Belarus, Ukraine, Baltic States and Kazakhstan are all parts of "Great Russia," but noted that he did so to protect the actual participator in the event, who told him this story.