On a sunny late September day, a trio of tourists gathered on Moscow’s Red Square. Well-dressed, carrying a Russian flag, the visitors bunched in front of the Kremlin’s walls to snap a selfie. Like so many others before, the man taking the photo, Louis Marinelli, took to his Twitter account, and shared the shot for the world.
But Marinelli wasn’t your average American tourist, and neither were his friends. That weekend, Marinelli was ensconced in a conference room in the capital, where he delivered a speech for an unusual cause: the secession of California from the United States. “As not only a representative of the nation of California, but also as the founder and the leader of the independence movement as recognized by the state of California itself, it is my honor to speak on behalf of my people at this conference on the right of self-determination,” Marinelli told his audience. “Our campaign exists to explain why we should free ourselves from the shackles of statehood, and instead embrace the freedoms of nationhood.”Sharon Bernstein reports at Reuters:
It would be easy to dismiss all this as nonsense driven by publicity-hungry amateurs, but people who know the Russian political playbook say winking at these fringe movements—and even giving them a boost—is a part of a very real strategy. Not only is this a way of puffing Russia’s domestic claims at turmoil in the U.S., but it fits firmly within the Kremlin’s modus operandi of cultivating fringe groups in the West—including, most especially, those who would fracture the United States in a reprise of the Soviet Union’s demise, over a quarter-century later.
Trump's election gave a huge boost to the quixotic campaign to remove California from the United States called Yes California, run by a former conservative turned progressive who now lives in Russia.
Dubbed "Calexit" by pundits comparing the effort to "Brexit" - Britain's vote to withdraw from the European Union - Yes California's email list jumped from fewer than 2,500 before the election to 115,069 currently, the group's president, Louis Marinelli, said in a telephone interview.
Marinelli, who moved to Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Moscow, in September and has lived in Russia on and off for several years, said he became disenchanted with the United States after difficulties arose with the immigration process for his Russian-born wife.