A fringe group of political activists from California who want to secede from the union say they opened an embassy in Moscow, Russia, last week. Its legitimacy is dubious, at best.
The Yes California Independence Campaign held an opening for the press at the new digs on December 18, the Los Angeles Times reports. The event was promoted on social media.
— Bear Flagger (@LouisJMarinelli) December 18, 2016
The Yes California Independence Campaign aims to put a measure on a 2018 state ballot that, if passed, would bring California one step closer to becoming its own nation.
Far-fetched as it may sound, the "Calexit" movement picked up steam after November 8, as Californians came to terms with Donald Trump's presidential election.
A state has not seceded from the union since the 1860s, and those 11 southern states rejoined after the American Civil War. An actual Calexit is unlikely, and we have no idea what the impact of a California exit might have.
Louis Marinelli, president of Yes California, left for Russia this fall to join forces with the Antiglobalization Movement of Russia. The grassroots campaign shares Marinelli’s belief that a state has a right to self-determination, he told Business Insider in November.
In the case of the group's new hub, the word "embassy" should be applied loosely.
Marinelli told Business Insider the resource center will educate Russian locals on Californian history and culture, foster trade relations, and encourage tourism. He said that the embassy will not actually conduct diplomatic affairs, but will serve as a promotional front for Calexit.
Russian media outlets have been following this story long before the US presidential election. Robert English, an expert on Russia and deputy director of University of Southern California's School of International Relations, called it "propaganda" in an interview with KQED.
He suspects the government-backed newspapers covering the secession efforts of Yes California are doing so to spread disinformation and "exploit existing tensions in Western and US society."
Marinelli, a former English teacher in Russia, told Business Insider he received some backlash for working with the country.
He maintained that Yes California will work with any group that shares its values and supports the right of self-determination, no matter how it appears to the outside world.
"That's why we don't have a problem with me being in Russia, for example, or signing an agreement with a group in Russia. It sounds kind of controversial, but we want California to become an independent country and we're not going to hold any punches to make that happen," he said.
Marinelli envisions a network of Yes California resource centers around the world someday.
A website managed by the US Department of State does not recognize the California embassy in Russia.