Bolshoi Theatre says mastermind of acid attack still unidentified

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Bolshoi ballet dancer charged with ordering the acid attack on the troupe's artistic director was not the ultimate mastermind, the theatre claimed after police said they had wrapped up their investigation.

"We have doubts that Pavel Dmitrichenko was the final mastermind of the attack on Sergei Filin. The leadership of the Bolshoi Theatre feels the same," theatre spokesman Katerina Novikova told the Interfax news agency.

Dmitrichenko, a top soloist, was charged on Thursday with causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Filin along with a perpetrator who flung acid in his face and a getaway driver. They have all been remanded in custody and face up to 12 years in prison if convicted. In court, Dmitrichenko admitted he had asked for Mr Filin to be beaten up but insisted he had not requested an acid attack.

"We have the feeling that someone stood behind Pavel, and he either submitted to their influence or involuntarily carried out their will," Ms Novikova said.

Moscow police said last week that they had completed the investigation and all the suspects had been detained, in what appeared to be a major success in a high-profile case. But the theatre's general director Anatoly Iksanov told state television in an interview late on Sunday that he believed Dmitrichenko was simply a "pawn" in the attack.

The shocking assault left Mr Filin with serious eye damage, for which he is being treated in Germany, as well as facial disfigurement.

"I am sure, as is the whole company, that someone pushed him to do this. Therefore, he was not the real mastermind that he is being presented as today, but some kind of perpetrator, some kind of pawn in other hands," Mr Iksanov said. "There is a puppet master, the investigation has to find who that person is."

He said earlier hacker attacks on Mr Filin's e-mail and the acid attack appeared to be "links in a single chain".