The leader of California separatist group Yes California announced in a 1,600-word statement on Monday that he "intends to make Russia" his "new home" and is therefore withdrawing his petition for a "Calexit" referendum.
Louis Marinelli, who has spearheaded the Calexit campaign since 2015, set up a makeshift embassy in Moscow in December in partnership with far-right Russian nationalists who enjoy Kremlin support while promoting secessionist movements in Europe.
"I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life," Marinelli wrote on Monday. "Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home."
He added that he will "not return to California in the forseeable future," so "it is only proper" that he withdraw the Calexit ballot initiative petition and "allow a new petition, free from ties to me and drafted by others, to be resubmitted at future date of their choosing."
Marinelli had been organizing the California independence referendum from Russia's fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg, where he has lived with his wife, Anastasia, since September.
He said in an interview in December that he was looking specifically to countries with veto power on the UN Security Council (UNSC) — Russia and China — to support his movement and recognize the results of an independence referendum in the event that the US and its UNSC allies rejected its legitimacy.
"We don't think that Russia needs to be an enemy of California, or that it even is one to begin with," Marinelli said. "The idea that Russia is an enemy of the US — that's a Cold War mentality."
Marinelli, who campaigned for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders but said he ultimately voted for President Donald Trump, described Yes California as a progressive initiative aimed at establishing a "liberal republic" independent of the United States. But his decision to align Yes California so publicly with Russia alienated him from the other, albeit smaller, California separatist movement known as the California Nationalist Party.
Both of the efforts gained more mainstream traction in the wake of Trump's surprising victory in November.
Marinelli reiterated on Monday that he does "not wish to live under the American flag," adding that his "frustrations" with the American political system have now pointed him toward Russia.
"I had long planned to eventually return to occupied California and struggle for her independence from the United States so we could build the kind of country that reflects our progressive values," Marinelli wrote. "However, while my frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States remains, these feelings now point me in a different direction."
He added that he hopes that "after the false allegations about me vanish, and after this period of anti-Russian hysteria subsides," it will be "said of this campaign that we spoke the truth" and "set in motion a series of events that led California to independence from the United States."
"When that day finally comes, as it will, I shall look forward with great satisfaction to return to California and to live once again under our bear flag," Marinelli wrote. "Until then I will continue to serve as the representative of the Republic of California to Russia."
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