Russian government allegations that Greece's expulsion of two Russian diplomats and the denial of entry to two Russian citizens was influenced by the United States are "groundless", Greek diplomatic sources said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry had summoned Greek Ambassador to Moscow Andreas Fryganas to protest the incidents, charging that "Washington is behind the Greek government's anti-Russian decision, timed to the opening of the NATO summit," as reported by Tass news agency.

In a strongly-worded statement, the diplomatic sources responded, "Claims of alleged American pressure towards Greece are absolutely groundless," adding, "It appears that the Russians have trouble understanding that a small state can and is in a position to defend its national interests. They have trouble understanding the unique role the Greek merchant marine plays in international economy and the Greek interest in defending this role. They have trouble understanding the right of our country to defend its national interests in the region, and they keep seeing third powers behind these. In this case they additionally have trouble understanding that we do not allow third powers to intervene in our domestic affairs."