A leading dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet has pleaded not guilty to ordering an acid attack on the company’s artistic director in what prosecutors have billed as a backstage clash at one of the world’s greatest theatres.
Pavel Dmitrichenko, who is known for his powerful performance in Ivan the Terrible and as the Evil Genius in Swan Lake, is accused of ordering the January attack in which a jar of sulphuric acid was thrown in the face of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin as he returned home late at night. The judge has delayed the start of the trial until next week.
Standing before a swarm of photographers in the defendant’s cage of a small Moscow courtroom yesterday, Dmitrichenko said he was not guilty, but refused to answer any other questions, after an angry look from his lawyer. The dancer and his two alleged accomplices face 12 years in prison on charges of conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm.
After confirming the identity of the defendants, the judge adjourned the trial until 29 October because the lawyer of Yury Zarutsky, who is accused of actually carrying out the attack, was not present.
According to prosecutors, Dmitrichenko planned the attack on Mr Filin because he was unhappy with how the director assigned roles and allocated salaries to the dancers. Russian and international media have reported that Dmitrichenko also wanted revenge on the victim for passing up the dancer’s girlfriend, Angelina Vorontsova, for roles including the lead in Swan Lake. She has since quit the company.
Dmitrichenko previously admitted to having asked Zarutsky to rough Mr Filin up, but said he did not intend acid to be used. Zarutsky has said he was solely responsible for the attack. Mr Filin underwent 22 operations in Germany that restored 80 per cent vision in his left eye, but vision in his right eye remains poor, and he said last month he was not yet ready to return to work.
It was also announced in court on that the Bolshoi’s former principal dancer, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who is reportedly close to Dmitrichenko and Vorontsova and was initially reported to be involved in the attack, will be called as a witness by the defence. Tsiskaridze’s contract was not renewed this summer after he clashed with management. He later called into doubt the extent of Mr Filin’s injuries and said Dmitrichenko was probably pressured into confessing.
Speaking to journalists in the hall outside the courtroom, Dmitrichenko’s mother Nadezhda said she believed her son was innocent and that the “spectacle” was largely manufactured by the media. Mr Filin’s lawyer said he would seek damages.