LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — If California voters ever decide to secede from the United States, they could have at least one partner on the international stage: Russia.
The Yes California Independence Campaign - which is leading an effort to bring a secession initiative to the 2019 ballot - opened what the group called a cultural center and "people's embassy" in Moscow this week.
The San Diego-based group first launched the initiative following Donald Trump's resounding election night victory and garnered support from Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar, who says the world's sixth-largest economy would have no trouble competing as an independent state on the global stage.
In addition to raising awareness of the California independence movement, Yes California founder Louis Marinelli says the center will promote business and travel, and seek to "further strengthen ties between our two peoples."
It wasn't immediately clear whether the group sought explicit approval from Moscow for the cultural center's opening.
Marinelli acknowledged the opening of the center in Moscow "does not serve any diplomatic function at this time" and clarified that any Russian citizens wishing to travel to California must first obtain a visa through the U.S. Embassy.
But while the opening is mostly symbolic, it's also part of what Marinelli calls an "important and critical dialogue with Russia, and future-planned embassies in other countries will continue that dialogue in other parts of the world."
"Yes California wants to make clear its ultimate objective is to make California free and an independent country through lawful means," said Marinelli. "Independent means independent: Independent of the United States, independent of the Russian Federation, and independent of every other country on this planet. That notion is embedded in the very question we intend to put before the voters: 'Should California become a free, sovereign, and independent country?'"
The move comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over allegations of Russian interference in the November election and a Reuters report stating "nearly all communication channels" between the two nations have been "frozen".
for more features.