Bolshoi acid attack: Lead ballet dancer confesses

Pavel Dmitrichenko, who looked haggard following his arrest. Picture: Reuters
Pavel Dmitrichenko, who looked haggard following his arrest. Picture: Reuters
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A DANCER at Russia’s Bolshoi ballet who made his name playing villains has confessed to ordering the acid attack that nearly blinded its director – angry that his lover was being kept out of leading roles.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, who has danced the crazed monarch in Ivan the Terrible and the villain in Swan Lake, was detained on Tuesday for a crime that shocked Russia and blackened the reputation of the world- famous theatre.

Dmitrichenko was shown haggard and unkempt in a police video confessing to plotting the attack, in which a masked man threw a jar of sulphuric acid in the face of artistic director Sergei Filin on 17 January.

“I organised this attack, but not to the extent that it happened,” he said, apparently meaning he did not intend the attack go so far.

Two other men who had no known connection to the Bolshoi also confessed in the video. One said he had thrown the acid at Mr Filin and the other that he had driven the getaway car.

Dmitrichenko, who is in his late 20s, said he had given the reasons for the attack in a written statement to police, but did not say what they were on camera. A source at the Bolshoi confirmed Russia media reports that the outspoken dancer was angry that his partner, ballerina Anzhelina Vorontsova, had missed out on top roles, including the lead in Swan Lake.

“Filin certainly squeezed out Vorontsova, but that is not a reason to throw acid in someone’s face,” the source said. Moscow police said they believed the motive was personal hostility based on a conflict at work.

Before flying to Germany for treatment last month to save his sight, Mr Filin, 42, said he believed he knew who was behind the attack and that he thought it was connected to his work. He is recovering and is expected back at work this summer.

The management of the Bolshoi, which declined to make any comment, had been hoping none of the ballet company was involved in the attack. The theatre is now in turmoil.

Dmitrichenko, born in Moscow to a family of dancers, had been at the Bolshoi since 2002 and was to dance in Sleeping Beauty this month.

He faces years in prison if convicted. The three suspects have not yet been charged and are due to appear in court today. LifeNews, a Russian website with close ties to police, said suspected attacker Yury Zarutsky and suspected driver Andrei Lipatov had been found by tracking phone calls made from the crime scene.

Police said the suspects had used phones registered under other names to organise the attack, and that Dmitrichenko had called his accomplices to report that Mr Filin was on his way home. The suspected attacker bought the acid at a car parts store and concentrated it by steaming away water, they said.

An aide to Mr Filin suggested Dmitrichenko had identified with the characters he played. “That Dmitrichenko constantly threatened everyone as though he really were Ivan the Terrible or [Swan Lake’s] evil genius – roles he played with depth and clear pleasure … is without doubt,” said Dilyara Timergazina.

In a 2011 interview, Dmitrichenko said “a theatre falls apart without dictatorship, especially ballet”, but described himself as an unruly student in ballet school.

As artistic director, Mr Filin had the power to make or break careers. Tales of his uncompromising grip on the troupe and disagreements with dancers have been widely reported.