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Another Time Nigel Farage Worked with a Putin Ally to ‘Harm Democratic Governance’ – and Refused to Speak About it

Heidi Siegmund Cuda revisits that time Reform UK leader Nigel Farage was part of an operation to divide California known as Calexit, which collapsed after it was revealed to be funded by Russia

Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage speaking at a meeting in Boston on June 27, while on the General Election campaign trail. Photo: PA Images / Alamy
Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage speaking at a meeting in Boston on June 27, while on the General Election campaign trail. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

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It’s been a weird week for pro-Kremlin assets. Donald Trump fanboyed Vladimir Putin during a Presidential debate, which he used as an opportunity to lie for 90 minutes while President Joe Biden looked on in horror.

And Julian Assange, who trafficked stolen goods by Russian military intelligence to help throw the 2016 election to Trump, pleaded guilty to espionage.

And Reform UK leader, Nigel Farage — a reliable mouthpiece of the Putin regime — said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should negotiate a peace deal with Russia, just like pro-Russian interloper in the US election, Robert Kennedy Jr.

President Joe Biden walks off stage as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump stands at the conclusion of a presidential debate on Thursday. Photo: Associated Press / Alamy

But what may be long forgotten in Farage’s history of engaging in active measures to harm democratic governance globally is his participation in an attempt to vivisect California in collaboration with Dana Rohrabacher, a former California politician nicknamed “Putin’s favourite Congressman”.

I learned about Farage meddling in California politics when Moscow resident Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov was indicted by the United States in collaboration with at least three Russian agents for engaging in foreign malign influence campaigns targeting the country. 

Founder of the Anti-Globalisation Movement of Russia (AGMR) – a body financed by the Russian Government – Ionov was accused of funding Russian propaganda designed to exploit divisions in the US. 

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The indictment alleged that Ionov used American political groups as foreign agents of Russia, working on behalf of the FSB. It offered pages of examples of electronic correspondences between Ionov and various groups, instructing them to plant news stories sympathetic to Russia, Putin, and the invasion of Ukraine. It also revealed that Ionov backed multiple American political candidates

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When we first investigated the story, court documents pointed to one of the groups being “Yes California” – an organisation set up in 2015 by Louis Marinelli, a New Yorker living in Russia. It advocated for California breaking away from the rest of the United States. 

The campaigns to divide California in two countries and to secede from the Union – known as ‘Calexit’ – was repeatedly covered by Russian state media in 2016 and 2017. Yes California’s Marinelli opened an ‘embassy‘ in Moscow in 2016, with the Anti-Globalisation Movement of Russia providing the office space rent-free. A right-wing activist who had campaigned against LGBTQ rights, said he left his home in Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 miles outside Moscow, to fight for California’s secession. 

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“We’ve heard a lot in the campaign about D-Day. If ever there was a time to fight them on the beaches, then this is it.”

The campaign was halted after reports emerged that Russia was funding the effort to weaken America and cause chaos. But on election night in the US in 2016, Russia’s troll factory continued to pump out CalExit propaganda, according to a report by the BBC.

Russian interference in Brexit preceded the Calexit operation. So it was not surprising to find the architects of Brexit – Leave.EU’s Arron Banks and Farage – were recruited in 2017 for the Calexit campaign by Republican Scott Baugh, a former member of the state assembly, and lobbyist Gerry Gunster. 

At the time, headlines read ‘Brexit leader Nigel Farage wants to split Calfornia in half next‘.

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“It did strike me as ridiculous that, given the overt nationalism of the Leave.EU campaign, it was involved in discussions with representatives of the Russian Government”

According to The Times of London, Farage and Banks raised $1 million for a campaign to set up a “Calexit” style referendum in the state for 2018.

The Farage plan aimed to split the state into two new regions, with one being the rural eastern part of the state and one being more coastal and “liberal”.

“It would be portrayed as the Hollywood elites versus the people, breaking up the bad government,” Banks said at the time. “It’s the world’s sixth largest economy and it’s very badly run.”

As investigative reporter Carole Cadwalladr tweeted to Farage in 2017: “Why were you in California pushing Calexit? Why was this photo deleted?”

The photo she referenced showed a smiling Farage fishing with Rohrabacher.

Funny that both men met with Assange, who just pleaded guilty to espionage.

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