Pavel Dmitrichenko, the Russian dancer accused of instigating an acid attack which nearly blinded the artistic director of the Bolshoi, has denied any guilt at trial in Moscow.
Dmitrichenko, 29, was led into the courtroom in handcuffs yesterday to face trial for the assault on 17 January that exposed bitter rivalries behind the scenes at one of Russia’s great cultural institutions.
He and two alleged accomplices face up to 12 years in prison if convicted of attacking Mr Filin as he walked from his car to his Moscow flat.
“I do not admit that I am guilty,” Dmitrichenko, who had dark rings under his eyes, told journalists after officers led him and two co-defendants into a metal courtroom cage. He looked at his parents and gave them a brief smile.
Dmitrichenko shook his head at other questions from reporters and said he would have his say in court. But the trial was adjourned until 29 October because of the absence of a lawyer for one of his co-accused.
Mr Filin was left writhing in the snow and calling for help after a masked assailant called his name then threw a jar of acid into his face.
At a hearing in March, Dmitrichenko said he had wanted Mr Filin to be roughed up but had been shocked to learn that acid was used.
“Pasha is our third child. Our beloved son. The youngest and the most talented one. I think my son is not guilty,” Dmitrichenko’s mother Nadezhda said in court, referring to her son by the diminutive form.
Dmitrichenko, who has been in custody since March, is standing trial with Yuri Zarutsky, the alleged attacker, and Andrei Lipatov, who is accused of being his getaway driver
“I hope the court will be able to distance itself from the public resonance of this case and deliver a well-grounded and just verdict,” Dmitrichenko’s lawyer, Sergei Kadyrov, said.
Born into a family of dancers, Dmitrichenko played roles including a murderous Russian monarch in Ivan the Terrible and a villain in Swan Lake. On the Bolshoi’s website, his picture remains alongside other leading soloists in the renowned troupe.
“A crime was committed. It must be solved. If Pavel’s guilt is proven, he should be punished,” Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said. “In any case, for us this situation is tragic – it involves friends and colleagues.”
In court Dmitrichenko said he had told Zarutsky about alleged corruption at the Bolshoi and accused Mr Filin of favouritism in handing out grants.
The scandal has damaged the theatre’s reputation and that of its management and stars.
The Russian government dismissed the Bolshoi’s long-time head Anatoly Iksanov in July, and earlier this year the theatre declined to renew the contract of Nikolai Tsiskaridze, a top dancer who feuded with Filin and Iksanov.
After months of treatment in Germany, Mr Filin, 42, was back at the Bolshoi last month at the opening of its 238th season, with dark glasses shielding his damaged eyes.
But with more operations expected on top of the more than 20 he has already undergone, Ms Novikova has said it is unclear to what extent Mr Filin will be able to resume his duties.