California independence movement supporters claim they have opened what they hope will be the sovereign republic's first embassy overseas. The movement known to social media users as #Calexit may have seen its first step toward secession with the opening of an embassy in Moscow to be used for cultural outreach, according to media reports Tuesday. 

Yes California, the grassroots organization urging state residents to back the secession of California, said it established in Moscow its first embassy to promote tourism and trade with California. Louis Marinelli, president of Yes California, said the move could eventually see California team up with other foreign governments. 

"We want to start laying the groundwork for a dialogue about an independent California joining the United Nations now,” Marinelli said in an email, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A rally of support for a so-called Calexit swelled after Republican Donald Trump was elected president in November, but the secession movement could have a far road ahead of it despite the state's robust economy and large population. If the ballot measure attracts enough signatures to put the issue to a vote in November 2018, a special election on independence would be held in March 2019. After that, it would still need approval from Congress and 38 states. 

Supporters insist Californians are ready for change. The potential 2018 ballot would ask: “Should California become a free, sovereign, and independent country?”

“We didn’t have much talk about secession until 15 years ago ... we’ve seen further growth in support for secession,” Jason Sorens, a lecturer in the department of government lecturer at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who also founded the Free State Project, previously told The Christian Science Monitor in an interview. “Voters have sorted more clearly into two parties and have ideologically diverged and created more alienation from the federal government.”

Marinelli, a San Diego resident who is working as an English teacher in Russia, met with the Antiglobalization Movement of Russia and 30 other independence groups worldwide during a conference on secessionists’ rights in September. “Yes California will work with any group that shares its values and supports the right of self-determination…. [W]e want California to become an independent country and we're not going to hold any punches to make that happen," he told reporters.

Marcus Evans, the vice president of Yes California, filed a proposed ballot measure with the Attorney General’s Office in November. “We always thought that if we just connected with the people who thought about this, but didn’t tell their friends and family because they would be seen as kooky and weird, that the quiet population would become vocal,” Evans said. “If you don’t want to support our suggestion, that’s fine. Let’s just have the conversation and discuss the facts.”

Californians have informally debated secession in the past, including during the recent war in Iraq and the George W. Bush administration's decision to keep foreign prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. As a sovereign republic, California could have the world’s sixth-largest economy.