MOSCOW – How much wider will the Bolshoi ballet acid attack scandal go?
On Tuesday police issued a statement calling the case closed after a top Bolshoi Theater dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, and two alleged accomplices were arrested and signed confessions that they plotted and carried out the vicious attack on the theater’s artistic director, Sergei Filin, in January. In a taped confession on Wednesday, Dmitrichenko admitted he ordered the hit.
But according to the Associated Press, the victim’s wife and lawyer have suggested more people were involved.
“We believe that investigators still have a lot of work to do to establish all of the facts,” the lawyer, Tatyana Stukalova, told state-run television.
Indeed, some theater officials have pointed fingers at Filin’s chief rival at the Bolshoi, former principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze. General Director Anatoly Iksanov has accused him of inspiring the attack, an allegation he has denied. Early on, fingers were pointed at Tsiskaridze because of his public criticism of Filin’s work as artistic director and his own ambitions for the job.
Tsiskaridze is also the mentor of the alleged mastermind Dmitrichenko’s partner Anzhelina Vorontsova, a rising star at the Bolshoi. Both men had accused Filin of passing her over for the top role in a production of “Swan Lake” out of spite. The three were also known to have complained about low wages for dancers at the theater.
Meanwhile, Dmitrichenko appeared in court on Friday alongside his two alleged accomplices, the alleged hit man and his driver.
He addressed the court from the metal cage where those on trial in Russia commonly sit, saying he only planned to have Filin beaten up. He said he never imagined sulfuric acid would be involved.
“It’s not true that I ordered him to throw acid at Filin,” Dmitrichenko said, but admitted to green-lighting the alleged assailants’ plans to attack the victim.
“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 told the court, according to the Associated Press.
The judge denied the men bail and ordered them held until April 18 in order to allow the investigation to continue.
In interviews with Russian news outlets, some of Dmitrichenko’s friends have described him as a passionate man who often acted on impulse.
He had been with the Bolshoi ballet since 2002 and recently performed the lead role in a production of the Soviet-era ballet “Ivan the Terrible.” He was next scheduled to appear in the role of the bluebird in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” on March 16.
Filin, the victim, was once the Bolshoi’s principal dancer and was named artistic director in 2011 after a controversial competition for the job. He was splashed with acid outside his home in central Moscow on Jan. 17 by a hooded assailant. The attacker fled. Filin’s face was severely burned. He is currently in Germany as doctors work to restore his eyesight.
In an interview with the BBC before he left Russia, Filin said he had an idea who was behind the attack, but declined to name names.
Filin reportedly told associates in the months leading up to the assault that he had been the subject of an intimidation campaign, including harassing calls and messages, but he declined offers of protection.