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The Russian Photographer Who Was In The Oval Office Has A Message For The US Press

Alexandr Scherbak, a photographer with Russian state-run news agency TASS, scolded his US counterparts for "delusional accusations" in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Last updated on May 11, 2017, at 5:07 p.m. ET

Posted on May 11, 2017, at 12:27 p.m. ET

Among the many concerns raised after Wednesday's meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was just who captured the moment on film.

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US press was kept out of the awkardly timed meeting. But the Russian delegation brought in a photographer of their own to capture the moment.

Those photos were then distributed to the Associated Press as being courtesy of the "Russian Foreign Ministry," which upset even more people.

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The White House later said that they were unaware that the pictures were going to be released in Russian state media, telling the Washington Post that they had been misled about the nature of the photographer accompanying Lavrov.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted one of the shots on Facebook, captioning it as "epic" and tagging the photographer: Alexandr Scherbak.

"Epic photo," says Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

β€œApparently the TASS person was admitted at the request of the Russian Foreign Ministry as the official photographer for the Russian side,” TASS Washington bureau chief, Andrei Sitov, told Talking Points Memo after earlier saying there was no photographer from his bureau present for the meeting. β€œHe is permanently assigned to cover FM Lavrov. His pictures from the meeting are available at the Russian FM’s Flickr. I was not even aware of this.”

Sherbak's presence in the Oval Office didn't just raise red flags about press access. Some asked whether the photographer went through proper security checks.

David Cohen, a former deputy CIA director, said on Twitter that it "was not" a good idea to let a Russian government photographer into the Oval.

Scherbak, a photographer with Russian state-owned media outlet TASS, took to Facebook on Thursday to defend himself in a post addressed "to the American media."

Facebook: ascherbak

"I must admit, for me this is nonsense," Scherbak wrote in Russian. "I'm a private person and I have never commented on my work before, but this hysteria regarding my shooting at the White House made me write these lines personally."

In the post, Sherbak describes the process he went through to get into the White House after Lavrov's meeting at the State Department earlier that day.

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"I was taken by a representative from the Americans, brought to the White House, I went through a routine scan on the scanner, a personal inspection, then got sniffed by the dogs," he wrote. "Then we went to the White House, where I waited in one of the rooms for the arrival of our delegation."

"On the shoot itself, I went with only two cameras," Sherbek continued, with everything else, including his cell phone, left behind. According to him, the shoot was normal, with a handshake, an exchange of pleasantries, and then shortly after the meeting began, he was escorted back to the room where he'd been waiting before. They then had a press conference at the Russian embassy, then left the country, he says.

Sherbak ended his post with an appeal to "American journalists not to lose their sense of professional dignity."

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"I have been working as a professional photojournalist for many years, and, for the first time, I have to deal with such absurdities and delusional accusations," he said.

Cybersecurity experts who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they saw "no obvious threat" made by Sherbak's foray into the Oval Office.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Given that Sherbak's equipment was scanned, and he went through the security precautions demanded of any visitor to the White House, one current intelligence official called the alarm over Sherbak's presence in the Oval Office, "hysteria."

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