Suspect in acid attack on Bolshoi chief detained

Associated Press
FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 file photo artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet Sergei Filin, speaks with the media as he leaves a hospital in Moscow, Russia.  A spokeswoman for the Bolshoi Theater says Tuesday, March 5, 2013, police has detained a suspect in the January acid attack on its artistic director. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)
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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police on Tuesday detained a man in the January acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet and searched both the suspect's home and that of one of the theater's dance stars.

Sergei Filin was left with severe burns to his eyes and face when an unidentified attacker threw a jar of sulfuric acid in his face as he was returning home late on Jan. 17. The 42-year-old former dancer is now undergoing treatment in Germany.

The Interior Ministry said that a suspect in the attack was detained and taken in for questioning on Tuesday, but did not release his name or provide any other details.

Police also searched the apartment of Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, the Interior Ministry said. The ballet star, who has been dancing at the Bolshoi since 2002, is best known for dancing the part of Ivan the Terrible in the ballet of the same name.

Bolshoi Theater spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said the management was not aware of a conflict between Dmitrichenko and Filin. Channel One state television reported that Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, however, also a Bolshoi soloist, had been known to have argued with Filin.

Novikova said she did not know if the detained suspect was related in any way to the famed theater.

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.

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.

Channel One reported Tuesday that the detained man was suspected of being an intermediary between the mastermind and the man who threw the acid, and thus could shed light on who ordered the attack. The Interfax news agency, citing police sources, said the suspect had driven the attacker to and from the scene.

"We hope that today's detention means that this crime will be solved," the Bolshoi spokeswoman said.

Russian news agencies reported that the suspect was 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. Dmitrichenko said in a recent interview that he was managing the dachas in his spare time.

In a February interview with Snob magazine, the Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said the attack on Filin was inspired by longtime principle dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

"I don't blame that particular crime on him, but I'm accusing Nikolai of escalating the situation at the theater, of putting psychological pressure on the theater's staff and management, on Filin, on myself and teachers," he said.

Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theater's management, has denied the allegation and accused Iksanov and his allies of fueling the dispute.

Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, was coached by Tsiskaridze.

Many ballet stars, including Anastasia Volochkova, have sided with Tsiskaridze. Alexei Ratmansky, the Bolshoi ballet's artistic director from 2004 until 2008, has likened the atmosphere at the theater to "a disgusting cesspool" and said that the attack stems from "the lack of any ethics at the theater."

Ratmansky is now an artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theater in New York.

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Yelena Yegorova, Laura Mills and Lynn Berry contributed to this report.

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