Police: Ballet Dancer Admits to Acid Attack

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Sergei Filin (Photo Credit: AFP video still via NDN)

From Alla Eshchenko, CNN

MOSCOW (CNN) — A Russian ballet troupe, a vicious acid attack on its director and a star dancer’s confession.

The attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, allegedly masterminded by a lead dancer at the troupe, has jolted the centuries-old Moscow fixture.

And as more details emerge, so does the number of suspects.

Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko confessed to ordering the attack, Russian police said Wednesday, as did the driver of the getaway car and the masked attacker who flung concentrated sulfuric acid on director Sergei Filin on a Moscow street on January 17.

The attack left Filin with third-degree burns to his face and eyes.

Police said a “hostile relationship” stemming from Dmitrichenko’s professional interaction with Filin prompted it.

News of the arrests further tore through the veneer of respectability at the revered institution, which has been dogged by one controversy after another in recent months.

Moscow police released a video of the three suspects apparently confessing on camera.

In the footage, Dmitrichenko, asked why he has been detained, answers: “I’m suspected of organizing the acid attack on artistic director of Bolshoi theater, Sergei Filin.”

Asked whether that is true, the 29-year-old dancer from Moscow responds: “I organized this attack but not to the extent that it happened.”

Andrey Lipatov, accused of being the driver of the getaway case, tells police: “I didn’t see what happened there. I just took Yuri there, waited for him and gave him a lift back.”

The man accused of throwing the acid, Yuri Zarutsky, tells the police who question him, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

‘Fierce rivalry’

Ballet is a world where competition is fierce, and where the artistic director wields considerable influence in making or breaking careers.

The Bolshoi began life in 1776, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Filin took over as director in March 2011, shortly after the deputy ballet director Gennady Yanin, who was widely seen as a favorite for the artistic director post, resigned when pornographic pictures of him surfaced online.

There was “fierce rivalry” for the Bolshoi position at the time, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

That year, two dancers quit, unhappy with the direction the ballet had taken.

Another dancer, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, loudly criticized Filin for going over budget in the ballet’s multimillion dollar renovation.

Tsiskaridze, incidentally, was also a contender for the artistic director job that Filin got.

But beyond professional disagreements, there were also sinister factors at play.

RIA Novosti reported that before the January attack, Filin suffered months of intimidation, including threatening phone calls.

Someone slashed his car tires. Somebody also attempted to hack his Facebook page.

The reports earned the Bolshoi incidents comparison to the psychological thriller “Black Swan,” in which Natalie Portman’s character slowly unravels as she tries to compete with another dancer who she thinks is trying to steal her role.

What’s next

It may take at least six months for Filin to recover from the burns.

In the meantime, Galina Stepanenko, a former principal dancer, will run the company.

She says she’s going to follow Filin’s plans and she believes the dancers will now be united by greater respect and care for each other.

Doctors performed a skin graft on Filin, and after a second eye surgery, they were able to save his sight.

His colleagues are now working to ensure his artistic vision isn’t lost.

— CNN’s Phil Black contributed to this report.