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Police detain suspect in Bolshoi acid attack


Moscow police detained on Tuesday a person who allegedly helped to carry out an acid attack on the Bolshoi ballet artistic director which shocked the artistic community and left the troupe in crisis.

Officers also searched the home of a celebrated dancer in what appeared to be the first tangible progress in a probe that has exposed a history of acrimony at a theatre that is one of Russia's biggest calling cards.

A masked assailant threw sulphuric acid in the face of 42-year-old Sergei Filin as he entered his apartment building through a dark parking lot mid-January.

Filin spent about two weeks in a Moscow hospital being treated for burns to his face and undergoing a series of surgeries on his eyes.

He has since been moved to Germany for further treatment that may take months. His sight was last reported to have partially recovered in one eye.

An unnamed law enforcement official told the Interfax news agency that the person detained by police was not a member of the Bolshoi but a driver who allegedly helped the attacker to escape the scene of the crime.

The LifeNews.ru website said police managed to track the suspect by checking mobile phone records from the area on the night of the attack.

But the law enforcement source told Interfax that the suspected assailant -- identified as a 35-year-old resident of the Moscow region -- had managed to escape their early morning sting raid.

The attack revolted the world artistic community and exposed the infighting among the dancers of one of the world's top ballet companies.

Several Bolshoi members have already been questioned and on Tuesday police searched the home of Pavel Dmitrichenko -- a Bolshoi soloist who has been with the troupe since 2002.

The former dancer has said several times that he knew who may have ordered the attack and blamed the incident on personal rivalries at the venerable theatre.

Police said they were optimistic they were close to identifying the person who had hired the attacker.

"At the moment, there is a promising theory about the person who ordered the attack," Interfax quoted a police source as saying.

Filin said afterwards that he had received threatening phone calls and a tyre of his car had been slashed in the weeks before he was hit.

"I should have taken these threats more seriously," he said in one interview.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Yekaterina Novikova said the detention was "good news for us".

"There is hope that they are on someone's trail," she told Interfax.

"If they found the person who did this, there is also hope that they will find the person who ordered it," she said.

Novikova added that she hoped that Filin would recover in time to return to work when the troupe makes its high-profile appearance in London this summer.

Filin has been replaced as the ballet's artistic director on an interim basis by veteran ballerina Galina Stepanenko.