MOSCOW - The mystery over who was behind the vicious acid attack on Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the famed Bolshoi Ballet, became even more intriguing today when police said they believe those responsible may have come from within the Bolshoi itself.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed law enforcement source saying that members of the famed ballet troupe are considered suspects.
The Russian press has had a field day since the attack took place over three weeks ago trying to solve a whodunit crime that rivals some of the company's most dramatic performances. There have been whispers and rumors suggesting theater politics were the cause of the attack, but today's report was the first time police sources pointed fingers at the victim's colleagues.
One of the company's top dancers, Nikolai Tsaskaridze, a man with a history of tension with Filin told the BBC that efforts to implicate him in the crime are nothing but a "witch hunt."
He likened it to a Stalin-like campaign to force him out, and suggested the Bolshoi's management was behind a smear campaign.
Pointing his finger at Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov, Tsakaridze told the BBC: "He wants to damage my reputation. But my reputation can't be damaged. I was - and I still am - the most famous dancer in the Bolshoi."
Tsakaridze also suggested Filin wasn't attacked with acid, asking why his hands weren't burned as well.
A theater spokeswoman dismissed that suggestion, telling the BBC, "I'm speechless. I don't care what Tsiskaridze thinks about it."
Filin himself said recently the thought he knew who was behind the attack, though he said he would let the investigation run its course first. He left the hospital this week, his head bandaged and his damaged eyes covered by dark sunglasses. He left for Germany this week where he will receive additional treatment for the extensive burns on his face and work to recover his eyesight.
Tension within the uber-competitive ballet world is not new, and certainly not at the Bolshoi, where glory is reserved for a few stars, and the accompanying dancers fume jealously. Over the more than 200 years of the Bolshoi's existence, there have been tales of crushed glass in the toes of ballet shoes and pins sticking into costumes, not to mention the occasional dead cat being thrown on stage.
As good as the Bolshoi is, this time the best drama is taking place off the stage.