Ballet attack accused in court

Last updated 00:00 08/03/2013
SUSPICIONS: Sergei Filin, artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet, after the acid attack that nearly blinded him.
SUSPICIONS: Sergei Filin, artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet, after the acid attack that nearly blinded him.
Sergei Filin
STAR: The artistic director of the Bolshoi Theater's ballet troupe Sergei Filin during his days as a ballet star in 2001.
Pavel Dmitrichenko
ACCUSED: Ballet soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko.

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A Bolshoi Ballet dancer accused of organising an attack that nearly blinded the Russian theatre's artistic director said in court that he wanted the victim beaten up but not splashed with acid.

A Moscow judge ordered Pavel Dmitrichenko held in custody for six weeks while authorities continue to investigate the January 17 attack, which stunned Russia and left the powerful ballet director Sergei Filin with severe burns to his face and eyes.

Brought to a drab Moscow court under guard, Dmitrichenko said he had agreed when the alleged accomplice accused of carrying out the attack suggested roughing Filin up, but did not tell him to throw acid in Filin's face.

"When I heard what happened to Sergei, I was just in shock. I could not believe that the man who proposed beating him up went ahead and did this thing with acid," said Dmitrichenko, dressed in a black hooded winter coat and a striped sweater and speaking from behind the bars of a courtroom cage.

Dmitrichenko, who made a career playing villains such as the murderous monarch Ivan the Terrible, said that when the assailant had proposed that he "hit him (Filin) in the head, beat him, I agreed to this suggestion."

A masked assailant called Filin's name as he returned home from the Bolshoi theatre late on Jan. 17 and threw acid in his face from a glass jar, leaving him writhing in pain in the snow.

The attack exposed bitter infighting at the Bolshoi and compromised the reputation of the theatre near the Kremlin in central Moscow, an enduring symbol of Russian culture that was founded in 1776.

Dmitrichenko was arrested on Tuesday and admitted to organising the attack in a police video shown on Wednesday, but said he did not mean for it to go so far.

The judge granted a request from prosecutors who called Dmitrichenko a flight risk and ordered him held in custody though mid-April. The dancer said he would not appeal that.

In the video, alleged accomplice Yury Zarutsky said he had thrown the acid at Filin, and Andrei Lipatov said he had driven the attacker to and from the scene. Both men were brought o the court with Dmitrichenko, whose hearing was held first.

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Moscow police said on Thursday they believed Dmitrichenko had paid his alleged accomplices 50,000 roubles.

A prosecutor said the state wants the dancer, who Russian media say is 28 years old, charged with a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

A source at the Bolshoi confirmed media reports and statements from ballet critics saying the outspoken dancer was angry that his partner, ballerina Anzhelina Vorontsova, had missed out on top roles including the lead in Swan Lake.

"This is a terrible story for the Bolshoi Theatre," a Bolshoi violinist, Roman Denisov, said at the courthouse. "It is a black mark on the Bolshoi Theatre, a disgrace."

As the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director, Filin, 42, has the power to make or break careers. Tales of his tight grip on the troupe and disagreements with dancers have been widely reported.

Andrei Bolotin, another Bolshoi Ballet dancer, on Thursday expressed sympathy for Dmitrichenko, saying he was dismayed by the sight of his haggard colleague in the police video.

"This is just one quarter of the Pavel Dmitrichenko we know," he said. "He looked awful and my skin crawls at the thought of what he has gone through."

A lawyer for Filin, Tatyana Stukalova, said her client was not surprised when he heard that Dmitrichenko was suspected, Interfax reported, but she also suggested the atmosphere of danger at the Bolshoi ran deeper than a missed role or two.

"Threats against people who worked and still work at the Bolshoi Theatre began long ago, two years ago ... One should not speak now of only one motive, that it all occurred because of Ms. Vorontsova," Stukalova said on state TV on Wednesday.

"We believe the investigators still have a great deal of work to do in order to establish everything," she said.

- Reuters

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