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Ballet star admits being behind acid attack on Bolshoi chief

Moscow investigators believe that the dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko harboured 'personal enmity based on his professional activity' towards the victim, Sergei Filin.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, right, as Ivan the Terrible, at a rehearsal in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Police say Mr Dmitrichenko confessed to being behind an acid attack on the theatre's director.
Pavel Dmitrichenko, right, as Ivan the Terrible, at a rehearsal in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Police say Mr Dmitrichenko confessed to being behind an acid attack on the theatre's director.

MOSCOW // A Russian ballet star who most recently played the title role in Ivan the Terrible at the famed Bolshoi Theater has confessed to the acid attack on the theatre's ballet chief, Moscow police said today.

Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet, suffered severe burns to his eyes and face on January 17 when a masked attacker threw a jar of sulphuric acid in his face as he returned home late at night. The 42-year-old former dancer is undergoing treatment in Germany.

The dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29, confessed to masterminding the attack, and two other men confessed to being accomplices, police said.

"I organised that attack but not to the extent that it occurred," a bleary-eyed Mr Dmitrichenko says in footage released by Russian police.

Moscow police official Svetlana Kokotova said that investigators believe that Mr Dmitrichenko harboured "personal enmity based on his professional activity".

Mr Dmitrichenko and the others remained in police custody pending a court hearing tomorrow in which prosecutors will move for formal charges, and it was unclear whether they had lawyers.

The Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said that Mr Filin had been informed about the detention, but said the theatre would not comment until after the trial.

Mr Dmitrichenko, who comes from a ballet family and joined the Bolshoi in 2002, has danced several major parts in recent years, including the villain in Swan Lake. Ms Novikova said management had not been aware of a conflict between him and Filin. However, Channel One state television reported that Mr Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, also a Bolshoi soloist, was known to have been at odds with Mr Filin.

Mr Dmitrichenko remained in police custody pending a court hearing yesterday in which prosecutors will ask the court to have the men arrested. It was unclear whether the three men had lawyers, or when the prosecutors will move for formal charges against them.

The Bolshoi Theater is one of Russia's premier cultural institutions, best known for Swan Lake and the other grand classical ballets that grace its stage. But backstage, the ballet company has been troubled by deep intrigue and infighting that have led to the departure of several artistic directors over the past few years.

Mr Filin's colleagues have said the attack could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for prized roles. Filin told state television before he checked out of a Moscow hospital that he knew who ordered the attack but would not name the person.

The alleged perpetrator, Yuri Zarutsky, 35, was arrested on Tuesday in the Tver region north of Moscow, police said. Police had also detained and questioned another suspected accomplice, identified as Andrei Lipatov, who is believed to have driven Mr Zarutsky to the scene of the crime.

Russian news agencies reported that Mr Lipatov had been detained in the town of Stupino, a sprawling Moscow suburb that has summer houses owned by the Bolshoi Theater and used by its dancers and management. Mr Dmitrichenko said in a recent interview that he was managing the Bolshoi dachas in his spare time.

The Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, accused longtime principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze of inspiring the attack. Mr Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theatre's management, has denied the allegation and accused Mr Iksanov and his allies of fuelling the dispute.

Mr Dmitrichenko's girlfriend was coached by Mr Tsiskaridze.

When contacted, Mr Tsiskaridze texted back: "I have nothing to say ..."