MOSCOW (Reuters) - A man charged with throwing acid in the face of the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director said the dancer accused of ordering the attack had only asked him to hit the victim and the use of acid was his own idea, a Russian court heard on Wednesday.
Testimony in the trial of three men charged in the attack on Sergei Filin also focused on the size and skills of defendant Pavel Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend, a dancer who a previous witness said had been passed over for roles by Filin.
Dmitrichenko, 29, and the other defendants face up to 12 years in prison if convicted for the attack last January that nearly blinded Filin and laid bare bitter rivalries behind the scenes at one of Russia’s leading cultural institutions.
Dmitrichenko, who denies guilt, has said previously that he gave co-defendant Yuri Zarutsky the green light to hit Filin and phoned Zarutsky on he night of the attack to tell him Filin was heading home, but had not meant for acid to be used.
That contention was supported by excerpts from a transcript of investigators’ questioning of Zarutsky which were read out by the judge on Wednesday in the Moscow courtroom where the defendants were confined to a cage.
“Dmitrichenko thought that I would beat Filin, but I decided to douse him with acid,” the judge quoted Zarutsky, a neighbour of Dmitrichenko, as saying. “I told nobody about this, not even Dmitrichenko.”
Filin’s eyesight remains impaired despite more than 20 operations, mostly in Germany where he spent months in hospital.
Asked in court on Wednesday whether Dmitrichenko had asked him to beat up or hit Filin, Zarutsky said: “Hit him - yes.”
Zarutsky, who shifted from foot to foot and gesticulated agitatedly as he spoke, said he had hoped Dmitrichenko could help him get a gas line set up - apparently to his home near Dmitrichenko’s in a dacha complex outside Moscow.
He also suggested he believed Dmitrichenko could provide him with ballet or theatre tickets that he could sell at a profit.
“I had various interesting plans that I wanted to make happen with Dmitrichenko’s help, even if it meant stepping on bones, on heads, on (people‘s) fate and health,” he said. “That is my life, my situation.”
Dmitrichenko sat behind Zarutsky, often holding his head in his hands and looking downward.
Dmitrichenko has accused Filin, whose job gives him the power to make or break careers, of favoritism.
Some of the testimony on Wednesday built on that of dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who said on Monday that Filin had sometimes passed over Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend Anzhelina Vorontsova on the grounds that she was not in shape or was too big.
“Anzhelina is a talented girl, very talented. But she was big,” Semyon Chudin, a top dancer at the Bolshoi, told the court.
”We always said, ‘Let her slim down a bit,’ Marina Kondratyeva, who teaches ballet at the theatre, said of Vorontsova, who has left the Bolshoi.
Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Ralph Boulton