On October 11 2022, a post with the headline “U.S. States That Wish to Join Russia Will Be Considered, Says Duma Member” appeared on Reddit’s r/worldnews:
Commenters initially debated the legality of any American states seceding. As for the post, it linked to what appeared at first to be the sole English-language source for the claim, an article from Newsweek.com, which reported:
A senior member of the state Duma, Russia’s parliament, said that any U.S. states that want to break away from the country and instead join the Russian Federation will be considered.‘Russia Reportedly Asked North Korea for Help with Its Failing Invasion,’ North Korea Said Russia Was ‘Too Insane for Us’‘Russia Reportedly Asked North Ko...
State Duma deputy Alexander Tolmachev was responding to an [unspecified] online poll that [purportedly] showed that some Americans wanted their states to break free from the U.S.
If Americans vote to secede some states from the country and express a desire to join Russia, Moscow will consider it, Tolmachev told Russian news site Podmoskovye Segodnya.
We were initially unable to locate the poll referenced by Newsweek.com. The site obtained a comment about the general legality of secession from a law professor at the University Virginia School of Law, Cynthia Nicoletti:
“States can’t unilaterally secede from the U.S. … This was established both by the outcome of our Civil War and by the Supreme Court in the 1869 case Texas v. White. Article I, section 10 of the Constitution also prohibits states from entering into alliances, treaties, or confederations … I suppose theoretically it’s an open question as to whether a state could secede with the consent of Congress or with the consent of all the other states …”
Google News primarily returned the Newsweek.com piece. Additional searching eventually led to an October 10 2022 post from far right disinformation purveyor NewsMax.com, “Moscow Official: American States Pursuing Secession Can Join Russia.”
Newsmax.com offered a link with the word “poll,” in a manner that could be most charitably described as “loosely.” If the linked information — a tweet — was the “poll” in question, it was more of a random question posed by a Twitter user with the “poll” function enabled:
Lets suppose New Hampshire were allowed to secede from the United States. Do you think the average New Hampshire citizen would be freer than the average American?
3) I am unable to process hypotheticals I regard as unrealistic
— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) June 22, 2022
Of just under 3,700 votes, the tweet received a little over 80 percent in “yes” votes to 20 percent in “no” votes. Newsweek.com referenced a comment “under the poll,” but we were unable to locate it in the limited replies to the tweet; as such, it is possible that Newsweek.com and Newsmax.com referenced different “polls.”
We tracked down two additional articles referencing Newsweek.com’s claim, both published on October 11 2022. One was published by the UK’s Independent, and another was published by the right-wing Daily Caller.
None of the individual items linked directly that specific poll or polls, and none linked to the Russian news source named in the Newsweek.com article (Podmoskovye Segodnya). Our attempts to locate the unlinked source material were unsuccessful.
An October 10 2022 Newsweek.com item, “U.S. States That Wish to Join Russia Will Be Considered …,” reported that a member of Russia’s Parliament (Duma) welcomed American states wishing to secede. The claim was picked up and re-reported several times, but we were unable to substantiate it. However, given the number of people reported to be fleeing Russia, it is possible that this is a sincere request.