An African-born watermelon merchant is aiming to become the first black man to hold public office in Russia — despite the country's deep-seated racism.

Joaquim Crima is being dubbed the Russian Barack Obama. He has also adopted a Russian first name and patronymic, Vassily Ivanovich.

"The destiny of this region concerns me deeply. Our life here is miserable. And my dream is to change it," Crima said in an interview with Sky News.

Despite growing local support, Crima told the news network that authorities are less than keen on his campaign.

"Some men came to me and offered me money if I get out of the race," he said.

"They said I had no chance in this election. But I told them — why are you offering me money if you are so sure I will lose? I want the people to decide."

Click here to read more on this story from Sky News.