YesCalifornia group kicked off its “Calexit” efforts in earnest in 2016, when Marinelli traveled to Moscow to stump for breaking California off from the U.S., rubbing shoulders with Texas secessionists who’d also received Russian funding to travel to Moscow. By that point, Ionov’s Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia group had already begun receiving Kremlin backing, with Ionov himself having received a personal note of thanks from Russian President Vladimir Putin for “work[ing] to strengthen friendship between peoples[.]”
However, Russian links with the California separatist movement were far broader than just that 2016 conference. A few weeks before the 2016 election, YesCalifornia draped a banner in San Francisco, complete with a winking Putin, claiming that “California and Russia will always be friends!” Following the 2016 vote, KQED reported that Marinelli had worked with Russia’s Internet Research Agency troll factory to “raise awareness” for California secession. (YesCalifornia disputed KQED’s coverage, but the outlet stood by its reporting.) And shortly after Donald Trump’s victory, dozens of bots and sock-puppet accounts just so happened to suddenly begin pushing #Calexit on both Twitter and Medium.
Update: Marcus Ruiz Evans, the president of YesCalifornia, emails to say that California has investigated his group and found no evidence of foreign funding. He adds that the Daily Beast itself doesn’t claim any direct evidence of foreign funding.