For POLITICO Magazine, I looked through Russia's links to Californian - and American - secessionists:
Marinelli is by no means the first North American separatist who’s caught Moscow’s eye. In the late 1960s the Kremlin considered cultivating Quebec separatists to further its own geopolitical ends, but eventually opted for more conventional means during the Cold War. For the past few years, however, those close to Moscow—including those whose books remain assigned to students at Russia’s General Staff Academy—have been constructing ties with white ethno-state separatists: the same brand who backed Donald Trump with such fervor in the presidential election. Recently, Russia’s gaze has fallen primarily upon Texas. As POLITICO Magazine found in mid-2015, actors tied to the Kremlin had begun cultivating links with higher-ups at the Texas Nationalist Movement, the most prominent separatist group in Texas. Russian backing for the cause ranges from meetings in St. Petersburg to chat about secession to Russian bots Tweeting exhortations to “Free Texas!” There are even instances of local Russian officials barking calls to arm Mexico to reclaim territory lost to the U.S. (The second-most-popular Texas secessionist Facebook page, with its mangled English and Russian grammatical constructs, may well be a Kremlin Astroturf operation.)
But where the Texas Nationalist Movement has sought to blur its links in Moscow—you’ll find little public information about Smith’s visit to Russia in September—Marinelli hasn’t been nearly so coy about his Russian ties. Not only does Marinelli readily acknowledge he lives in Russia, but he has compared his planned California independence referendum on par with a Crimean “referendum” that was recognized by only a handful of tin-pot dictatorships. Marinelli has further compared his appeals to the Kremlin to, curiously, American revolutionaries’ pleas to Paris, positioning himself—or his Russian contacts—as something of a redux of Marquis de Lafayette.