The trial of the Bolshoi Ballet acid attack is set to begin in Russia, and is expected to shed light on the infighting and fraught politics of the world-renowned dance troupe.
A closed pre-trial hearing took place this week, itself marred by controversy. The lawyer of lead soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, charged with masterminding an attack on artistic director Sergei Filin, say he has been beaten without provocation by policemen wearing masks.
According to reports in the respected daily newspaper Izvestia, the dancer’s lawyer Sergei Kadyrov claims that after the pre-trial hearing ended on Wednesday, three guards took Mr Dmitrichenko into the waiting room and assaulted him.
The marks left by the attack have reportedly been assessed by a doctor at the detention centre where the accused is being held.
Mr Kadyrov said: “I will appeal to the pre-trial detention's administration, as well as the Investigative Committee. A criminal case against the guards has to be initiated. No one should be allowed to beat a man down while he is handcuffed.”
It is a shaky start to an already difficult process, which many hope will reveal just how things spiralled so spectacularly out of control at the world-famous Moscow ballet company.
If found guilty of orchestrating the alleged acid attack, Mr Dmitrichenko could face up to 12 years in jail. He is being held alongside Yury Zarutsky, accused of throwing acid in Mr Filin’s face, and Andrei Lipatov, accused of driving the alleged assailant to the scene.
Mr Filin’s lawyer Tatyana Stukalova told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta government daily that her client and the Russian government were both seeking damages from the accused.
“The Health Ministry will seek compensation for the money it spent on (Filin’s) treatment,” she said.
“And we will seek compensation for moral damages.”
Speaking previously about the night the attack occurred, Mr Fillin said: “The pain was immense and instant. It had been a beautiful winter night: silent, white, great drifts of snow falling upon snow. I began scooping up handfuls of it and pressing them into my eyes and cheeks to relieve the agony.”
A man stepped out of the darkness and threw corrosive liquid into Mr Filin’s face as he was returning home late on 17 January, leaving him scarred and his eyesight at risk.
“Last week I underwent my 22nd operation,” Mr Filin told The Telegraph. “Some of the optimism that we had earlier has not been justified.”
“My right eye sees nothing at all and my left is working at about 10 per cent. I can make out light and dark; I can’t make out faces. But I want to concentrate on the fact that my doctors are amazing and there is a plan for treatment. There is hope that my left eye especially can improve.”
The news agency AFP reported that the attack laid bare rifts and jealousies running deep in the company, amid suspicions it came as an act of personal revenge.
Mr Dmitrichenko has reportedly admitted to being angry at the limited role given by the company to his then girlfriend and fellow dancer Angelina Vorontsova.
The pair have both left the company, with Ms Vorontsova now dancing to strong reviews with the Mikhailovsky ballet in St Petersburg.
The trial over the alleged acid attack is scheduled to begin on 22 October, at the Meschansky District Court of Moscow.