Dancer admits acid attack on Bolshoi chief

A leading Bolshoi Ballet soloist has confessed to ordering an acid attack on the artistic director of the world famous dance company in a hate crime that risks seeing him jailed for up to 12 years, Moscow police said on Wednesday.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, one of the company's leading male dancers, signed a confession along with two other suspects who were all arrested on Tuesday in a dramatic denouement to the investigation into the January attack on Sergei Filin.

"I organised the stated crime, but not on the scale that it turned out," a haggard-looking Dmitrichenko was shown as saying in a confession videoed by police and broadcast on Russian television.

The attack on Filin left the 42-year-old former Bolshoi star dancer turned artistic director fighting for his eyesight and risking permanent facial disfigurement.

It also led to the Bolshoi Theatre's biggest scandal since it was founded in 1776, blowing apart the refined veneer of the ballet and exposing bitter infighting and long-held grudges.

Without giving further details, police said the "motive of the crime was the hostile personal relationship Pavel Dmitrichenko had with Sergei Filin, which was linked to their work."

The Moskovsky Komsomolets and Izvestia dailies said that Dmitrichenko was aggrieved that his girlfriend, the ballerina Anzhelina Vorontsova, was being passed over by Filin for major roles.

Of those arrested on Tuesday, Dmitrichenko was the mastermind of the attack, accomplice Yury Zarutsky was the assailant who flung acid into Filin's face and Andrei Lipatov was the getaway driver, police said.

"At the current time all three have signed confessions and have been placed under arrest," the police said.

A police source told Interfax news agency they could face charges of a plot to cause harm to a person's health which carries a jail sentence of up to 12 years.

Filin's wife Maria told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that her husband had suspicions about Dmitrichenko but believed that a "much wider" circle of people were involved.

"Not just the three who they arrested. We hope the security forces unearth those who are implicated in this," she said.

Filin's lawyer Tatyana Stukalova told Interfax news agency: "I could not say my client was very surprised when he found out who was suspected."

'Black Swan-style rivalries'

Reportedly aged 28 or 29, Dmitrichenko is not one of the half-dozen very top male dancers at the company, known as premiers, but he is a leading soloist, a rank just one level down.

He won prominence by taking the title role in the recent revival of Yuri Grigorovich's Soviet-era ballet "Ivan the Terrible" to music by Prokofiev about the brutal mediaeval ruler's iron grip over Russia.

After the premiere of "Ivan the Terrible" he showed his fiery temperament by lambasting online one of Russia's best known ballet critics Tatyana Kuznetsova, who had been less than impressed with his performance.

With piercing eyes and a lean face, he had made a speciality of portraying villains, notably the role of the Evil Genius in "Swan Lake".

According to the Bolshoi website, he was due to dance on March 16 in Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Sleeping Beauty", albeit in the ironically innocent-sounding role of the Blue Bird.

The Bolshoi's managing director Anatoly Iksanov had blamed star dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze over the attack, saying he had created the poisonous atmosphere that led to the assault.

According to Moskovsky Komsomolets, Tsiskaridze had been coaching Dmitrichenko's girlfriend Vorontsova and she had emerged as his star protege.

In an episode reminiscent of the rivalries of the hit film "Black Swan", Vorontsova's supporters accused Filin of wasting her talent by not giving her the top roles in ballet -- notably the double Odette-Odile role in "Swan Lake".

This had in turn provoked a bitter row with Dmitrichenko, the paper said.

"Currently, the atmosphere is very poisonous at the Bolshoi. Of course egos are very extensive but the troupe cannot understand how something so awful can happen in the ballet world," one female dancer, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Filin, who spent about two weeks in a Moscow hospital undergoing a series of operations on his eyes, has since been moved to Germany for rehabilitation treatment that may take months.

 

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