Why Russia Cultivates Fringe Groups, Such as the California Secession Movement

In late December, surrounded by a handful of reporters, an American named Louis Marinelli held the floor in a mid-size office in Moscow. Flanked by photos of Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez, Marinelli railed against American hegemony, listing complaints ranging from Washington's foreign policy to the difficulties of the U.S. immigration system. These factors, as well as the fact, as he said elsewhere, that he could "no longer live under a U.S. flag," had led him to move to the southern Urals.On that day, nearing the end of 2016, Marinelli unveiled his primary project. With its logo emblazoned on a banner unfurled behind him, Marinelli welcomed visitors to the "Embassy of the Independent Republic of California." Marinelli was the self-appointed "leader" of the California secession movement, known colloquially as #Calexit. His group, YesCalifornia, which Marinelli left in April, announcing amid a flurry of negative publicity that he'd be moving to Russia permanently, had gained certain steam following the November election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, pushing to place a question on California secession on the state's 2018 ballot.  Continue reading...

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