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Russia can apply to replace expelled diplomats in Canada; deadline for departure is today

The Russian embassy in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday, March 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Today is the deadline for four Russian diplomats to leave the country after they were ordered expelled from Canada in response to the poisoning of a former double agent in the U.K. in March.

However, Canada is not permanently reducing the number of staff Russia can have in the country and Russian officials will be able to submit applications to replace the expelled staff — though there is no guarantee those applications will be accepted.

READ MORE: U.K. spy poisoning case: Expelled Russia, U.S. diplomats begin to leave embassies

On March 26, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Canada was expelling four Russian diplomats from the embassy in Ottawa and the consulate in Montreal and denying the applications of three others who were set to be posted here.

That move came as more than 20 other Western countries announced their own expulsions of Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russian involvement in the poisoning of a former double agent in Salisbury, U.K., on March 4.

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Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench and more than 30 bystanders were treated for minor injuries in what British authorities said was a chemical attack using a Soviet military-grade nerve agent.

A British police officer was also seriously injured.

WATCH BELOW: Canada, U.S., EU expel Russian diplomats after ex-spy poisoned

Click to play video: 'Canada, U.S., EU expel Russian diplomats after ex-spy poisoned' Canada, U.S., EU expel Russian diplomats after ex-spy poisoned
Canada, U.S., EU expel Russian diplomats after ex-spy poisoned – Mar 26, 2018

Over the past weekend, the 60 Russians expelled from the United States and the 60 American diplomats expelled from Russia packed up and went home to their respective countries.

The statement announcing the expulsion of four Russian diplomats from Canada did not include a deadline for their departure but a government source speaking on background confirmed to Global News that the date for Russians to leave Canada is April 5.

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READ MORE: Canada expels four Russian officials in retaliation for U.K. spy attack

The source could not confirm if all four of the individuals have left Canada yet but noted they have must do so by today.

The individual also said Russia will be free to submit applications for replacement staff which Canada will consider on a case-by-case basis, but they said approval will not be automatic and the decision will be based on a variety of factors including political considerations.

READ MORE: Trudeau links Russians expelled over spy attack to Nazi smear campaign against Freeland

If Russia continues on the path it is on now, the individual said the government will be taking a hard look at any and all applications submitted.

So far, it appears at least one Russian diplomat has left.

Last week, Victor Znachkov was listed as working at the Russian embassy in Ottawa as an administrative and technical staff member.

As of April 5, he is no longer included on the list of Russian representatives in Canada.

One individual also appears to have been added to the list since last week.

Konstantin Pivovarov is now listed as a consular employee in Montreal.

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