Bolshoi Ballet dancer detained over acid attack

Tue Mar 5, 2013 1:58pm EST
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By Timothy Heritage and Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained one of the Bolshoi Ballet's top dancers on Tuesday over an acid attack that nearly blinded the troupe's artistic director and exposed fierce backstage rivalries at the famed theatre.

Russia's Interior Ministry said in a statement that Pavel Dmitrichenko, a Bolshoi soloist who is to dance in "Sleeping Beauty" this month, is suspected of plotting the attack that left Sergei Filin, 42, with severe burns after a masked assailant threw a jar of acid in his face.

Police also said they detained a man suspected of carrying out the attack and another thought to have driven him to the crime scene outside Filin's apartment on January 17.

The attack shocked a country used to violent settling of scores, shining the spotlight on infighting at one its top cultural institutions. The involvement of one of its star dancers is likely to deepen the sense of crisis at the Bolshoi.

A police source told the RIA news agency that investigators had evidence Dmitrichenko, who has played the evil villain in Swan Lake and lead in Sergei Prokofiev's Ivan The Terrible, had ordered the attack but that they were still seeking his motive.

Life News, a Russian website with close ties to the police, said the suspected attacker, Yury Zarutsky, and his driver, Andrei Lipatov, were found by tracking cell phone calls made from the crime scene.

The Bolshoi Theatre's spokeswoman, Katerina Novikova, could not be reached for comment on Dmitrichenko's detention but said earlier on Tuesday, after a search of his apartment, that she knew of no dispute between him and Filin.

She looked irritated and became defensive when addressing the possibility of divisions in the company, saying: "I think the Bolshoi Theatre troupe is waiting for Sergei's return, and loves him and wishes him a speedy recovery."   Continued...

Sergei Filin, artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet, speaks to journalists as he leaves a hospital in Moscow February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Vselovod Kutznestov