MOSCOW - The White House called Russian accusations that it had discriminated against Russian journalists by barring them from a news conference with President Barack Obama and Ukraine's prime minister "ludicrous" on Friday.
The event Wednesday was open to a small number of reporters accompanying the visiting delegation and reporters assigned by rotation, as is standard, according to a White House statement.
"Russian reporters receive the same access to open press events as all other credentialed reporters and that will continue to be the case," the White House said. "The idea that we would have excluded Russian press ... because the President didn't want to take questions about the Ukrainian government is ludicrous."
Earlier, the Russian foreign ministry lashed out at the administration, saying Russian journalists had been refused entry to the press conference with Obama and Ukraine's Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
"We believe that the refusal to allow Russian journalists to attend the press conference on March 12 of U.S. President B. Obama and the head of the current Ukrainian 'government' A. Yatsenyuk is unacceptable and discriminatory," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
SHAWN THEW / EPA
President Barack Obama and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speak to the press after their meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
The Russian foreign ministry did not provide the names of journalists unable to join Wednesday's event.
"It seems that in Washington, where they so like to muse about the freedom of speech and freedom of press, they are not ready to follow such principles, and prefer to deal only with 'proven and tested' media, which report the 'necessary' information," the statement added.
Obama met with Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s acting prime minister who came to power after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, amid worsening tensions with Russia. Troops loyal to Russia have taken over Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, and on Sunday the region will hold a referendum on whether to become part of Russia.
- NBC News' F. Brinley Bruton and Albina Kovalyova
First published March 14 2014, 1:35 AM