Putin has two reason to kill his opponents and the West has to counter both, Shulipa says.

Yury Shulipa, author of How Putin Kills Abroad , says that Putin has two reasons for doing away with his political opponents. On the one hand, he wants to spread fear among both others who oppose him and the international system as a whole. And on the other, he wants to show the world that he won’t be held accountable for his actions.

The first of these factors helps him maintain power and is part and parcel of his aggressive policies toward other countries; the second elevates him in the eyes of many Russians and others as well to a kind of superman who should be respected precisely because of that ability.

More on the topic: Who’s most at risk of assassination by Putin’s siloviki? Kirillova provides a typology

A major limiting factor preventing others from calling out Putin on this is the lack in international law of a clear definition of “international state terrorism,” Shulipa tells the editors of the Kasparov portal. “It is important to call things by their own names and then the chances for victory over such arbitrary actions regardless of who carries them out increase dramatically.”

Unless and until that is done, he says, “the number of murders and other reprisals against them by the Russian special services will only grow.” To be sure, other countries engage in similar actions, and those actions should be studied and labeled for what they are. But at present, Putin’s regime is almost certainly the most prominent in this regard.

“It is obvious that if Russia does not achieve its foreign policy goals by other, peaceful means, it will use any other up to and including murdering people abroad.”

That is because, the investigator says, this “deviant behavior arises from the total lack of punishment for the commission of such crimes, the sense that everything is permitted, and from the corruption of the powers that be.”

As of now, “Vladimir Putin knows that for the organization of murders and kidnappings of people abroad, he will bear absolutely no punishment, and the rare symbolic sanctions will not threaten his political regime,” Shulipa says. “Therefore, Putin will continue to kill abroad.” Indeed, there is every reason to think he is proud of what he is doing.

More on the topic: List of Kremlin-linked deaths since Nemtsov’s murder continues to lengthen

If these crimes are to be stopped, they must be seen as what they are – crimes – and their authors must be identified as criminals even if the legal system cannot yet touch them. Only in that way is there any chance that those who now look at Putin as a superman beyond the reach of anyone else will begin to see the error of that perspective.

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