MOSCOW (Reuters) - A prominent former Bolshoi Ballet principal told a Russian court on Monday that the victim of an acid attack had denied roles to the main suspect in the crime, a younger dancer he said could have had a "brilliant career" at the renowned theatre.
Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who lost his job at the Bolshoi in the aftermath of the attack on the ballet company's artistic director Sergei Filin, testified in the trial of dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, who faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
The attack, which left Filin writhing in the snow from the acid thrown into his face by a masked assailant, revealed rivalries over power, pay and roles at one of Russia's chief cultural symbols.
Tsiskaridze, who had feuded with Filin and longtime former Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov, told the court that Filin had more than once engineered Dmitrichenko's removal from roles that the theatre had already advertised he would play.
"Pavel was pulled out of roles several times on the authority of Sergei Yuriyevich (Filin), and for the Bolshoi Theatre that's an extraordinary occurrence," the dark-haired dancer, 39, told the court.
He recounted what he said was an "ugly scene in a corridor" at the colonnaded theatre near Red Square after Filin favored another dancer for a role longtime former artistic director Yuri Grigorovich had wanted Dmitrichenko to play.
"Dmitrichenko was summoned to Filin and ... flew out of there followed by a stream of curses," Tsiskaridze said.
"Sergei Yuriyevich spoke very ugly words."
Tsiskaridze, a principal dancer and teacher during a 20-year career at the Bolshoi, said he had seen great promise in Dmitrichenko.
"I always told Pasha that a brilliant career awaited him if he worked harder," he said.
Tsiskaridze, who was ousted from the Bolshoi when his contract was not renewed at the end of June, said at the time he was being hounded out over disputes with the management.
His tense relationship with Iksanov turned poisonous after the acid attack, which Iksanov suggested Tsiskaridze might have played a role inciting.
Shortly after Tsiskaridze was forced out of the Bolshoi, Iksanov was dismissed by the Russian government after 13 years as its general manager.
Tsiskaridze also told the court that Filin had sometimes denied roles to Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, saying that she was not in shape or was too big.
Dmitrichenko is accused of organizing the January 17 attack on Filin, whose eyesight remains impaired after more than 20 operations. Yuri Zarutsky is accused of throwing the acid in his face and Andrei Lipatov of driving Zarutsky to the scene.
Dmitrichenko has said he gave Zarutsky the green light to punch Filin but had not intended acid to be used and was shocked when he heard what had happened.
On Monday, Dmitrichenko told the court he had phoned Zarutsky when he saw Filin leaving the Bolshoi on the night of the attack to tell him the artistic director would be home soon.
Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Ralph Boulton