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Dancer admits being behind Bolshoi chief attack

MOSCOW – A Russian ballet star who most recently played the title role in “Ivan the Terrible” at the famed Bolshoi Theater has confessed to the acid attack on the theater’s ballet chief, Moscow police said Wednesday.

Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet, suffered severe burns to his eyes and face on Jan. 17 when a masked attacker threw a jar of sulfuric acid in his face as he returned home late at night. The 42-year-old former dancer is undergoing treatment in Germany.

The 29-year-old dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, confessed to masterminding the attack, and two other men confessed to being accomplices, police said in a statement.

“I organized that attack but not to the extent that it occurred,” a bleary-eyed Dmitrichenko says in footage released by Russian police.

Moscow police official Svetlana Kokotova told The Associated Press that investigators believe that Dmitrichenko harbored “personal enmity based on his professional activity.”

Dmitrichenko and the others remained in police custody pending a court hearing on Thursday in which prosecutors will move for formal charges, and it was unclear whether they had lawyers.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told AP that Filin had been informed about the detention, but said the theater would not comment until after the trial.

Dmitrichenko, who comes from a ballet family and joined the Bolshoi in 2002, has danced several major parts in recent years, including the villain in “Swan Lake.” Novikova said management had not been aware of a conflict between him and Filin. However, Channel One state television reported that Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend, also a Bolshoi soloist, was known to have been at odds with Filin.

Dmitrichenko remained in police custody pending a court hearing today in which prosecutors will ask the court to have the men arrested. It was unclear whether the three men had lawyers, or when the prosecutors will move for formal charges against them.

The Bolshoi Theater is one of Russia’s premier cultural institutions, best known for “Swan Lake” and the other grand classical ballets that grace its stage. But backstage, the ballet company has been troubled by deep intrigue and infighting that have led to the departure of several artistic directors over the past few years.

Filin’s colleagues have said the attack could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for prized roles. Filin told state television before he checked out of a Moscow hospital that he knew who ordered the attack but would not name the person.

The alleged perpetrator, 35-year-old Yuri Zarutsky, was arrested on Tuesday in the Tver region north of Moscow, police said. Police had also detained and questioned another suspected accomplice, identified as Andrei Lipatov, who is believed to have driven Zarutsky to the scene of the crime.

Russian news agencies reported that Lipatov had been detained in the town of Stupino, a sprawling Moscow suburb that has summer houses owned by the Bolshoi Theater and used by its dancers and management. Dmitrichenko said in a recent interview that he was managing the Bolshoi dachas in his spare time.

The Bolshoi’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, accused longtime principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze of inspiring the attack. Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theater’s management, has denied the allegation and accused Iksanov and his allies of fueling the dispute.

Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend was coached by Tsiskaridze.

When contacted by the Associated Press Tsiskaridze texted back: “I have nothing to say...”

Many ballet stars, including Anastasia Volochkova, have sided with Tsiskaridze.

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