Greece has moved to expel two Russian diplomats and to block two others from entering over suspicions they attempted to undermine a deal between Athens and Macedonia last month, a Greek official told the Associated Press.
Russia has been given until July 13 to get the two diplomats out of Greece, said the official on July 12, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear if they had already departed.
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on July 11 that Athens wouldn't accept "behavior that violates international law" and disrespects the Greek state.
His remarks were in response to the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini's report about the expulsions for what it said were activities inconsistent with the diplomats' status.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would respond in kind to the expulsions, Interfax news agency reported.
Kathimerini reported that Athens ordered the expulsions and bans after perceived attempts by the Russian diplomats to undermine a deal Greece brokered with Macedonia last month to end a decades-old standoff over its name.
The two countries agreed to the renaming of the former Yugoslav republic to North Macedonia.
Meanwhile, a Russian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly dismissed as "nonsense" allegations that Russian diplomats were involved in undermining Greek public support for the Macedonia deal.
In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that diplomatic expulsions typically bring a tit-for-tat response, but underlined the importance of Russia-Greece ties.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Greece, originally planned for the fall, is unlikely to take place given the current situation, a high-ranking official at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax.