Ballet star says he agreed to attack on Bolshoi director

AP, MOSCOW

Sat, Mar 09, 2013 - Page 7

Pale and haggard after hours of questioning, a leading Bolshoi dancer told a Moscow court that he gave his blessing to an attack on the ballet’s artistic director, but never imagined that the assailant would go as far as to throw acid in his face.

The arrest and confessions of Pavel Dmitrichenko, who danced the parts of both heroes and villains in the Bolshoi’s famed classical ballets, has dealt a painful blow to the theater’s reputation and left many members of the company bewildered and incredulous.

Sergei Filin, 42, suffered severe burns to his face and eyes in the Jan. 17 attack. He has undergone a series of operations aimed at saving his sight.

The 29-year-old Dmitrichenko said his conflict with Filin was focused on the distribution of salaries and other financial issues, but speculation was rife about other possible reasons for the attack. Some claimed that the dancer wanted to take revenge for his ballerina girlfriend after she was turned down for a major role, while others pondered arcane conspiracy theories alleging the involvement of other top figures in the theater.

Facing the judge on Thursday, Dmitrichenko said he had told the suspected perpetrator of the attack about his grievances concerning the Bolshoi and his arguments with Filin.

“I told Yuri Zarutsky about the policies of the Bolshoi Theater, about the bad things going on, the corruption. When he said: ‘OK, let me beat him up, hit him upside the head,’ I agreed, but that is all that I admit to doing,” Dmitrichenko said in court. “It’s not true that I ordered him to throw acid at Filin.”

The burly, grim-faced Zarutsky, who served seven years in a maximum security prison for beating up someone who later died, tried to cover his face from TV cameras with his tattooed hand when he was led into the courtroom. He made an indecent gesture and uttered an obscene comment to reporters who shouted out questions about his part in the crime.

Moscow police said on Thursday that Dmitrichenko had paid 50,000 rubles (about US$1,600) to Zarutsky, who they said had purchased acid at an auto shop and then heated it to make it more concentrated. The third defendant, Andrei Lipatov, drove the getaway car, but insisted that he did not know the purpose of his mission.

The judge rejected all three men’s pleas for release and ordered them held until at least April 18 while the investigation continues. If convicted, they face up to 12 years in prison.