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Russia accuses U.S. of discrimination against Russian journalists

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused the United States on Friday of unacceptable discrimination against Russian journalists by barring them from a news conference given by President Barack Obama and Ukraine's prime minister.

The Russian Foreign Ministry portrayed Washington as trampling on media freedoms in a harshly worded statement which mirrored Western criticism of the Russian state media's coverage of the crisis over Ukraine's Crimea region.

"We consider the refusal to allow Russian journalists to attend the press conference on March 12 by U.S. President B. Obama and the head of the current Ukrainian 'government', A. Yatseniuk, to be unacceptable and discriminatory," the statement

by ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

"It seems that in Washington, where they so love to talk about freedom of speech and journalists' rights, they are not ready to follow these principles themselves, preferring to deal only with 'approved' media propagating the 'required' information."

Lukashevich did not give any details or proof of the allegations that Russian journalists had been barred from the news conference.

He said the U.S. authorities had not wanted to face "awkward

questions that are not part of the pre-written script", including about the "crimes" of Dmytro Yarosh, a far-right leader who had an influential role in the protests that brought down Ukraine's Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich.

Obama met Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk to show support for Ukraine in its standoff with Russia over Crimea, which has been taken over by Russian forces and votes in a referendum on Sunday on whether to join the Russian Federation.

(Reporting By Katya Golubkova, Writing By Timothy Heritage, Editing By Elizabeth Piper)

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