Dancer confesses to attack on Bolshoi chief: Russia police

MOSCOW (AFP) - A leading Bolshoi Ballet soloist has confessed to his involvement in the acid attack on the Mr Serge Filin, the artistic director of world famous dance company, Moscow police said on Wednesday.

One of the company's leading male dancers Pavel Dmitrichenko, the suspected mastermind of the January attack, signed a written confession along with two other suspects who were all arrested on Tuesday.

"The motive of the crime was the hostile personal relationship Pavel Dmitrichenko had with Sergei Filin, which was linked to their work," police said in a statement.

Police gave no details on his motives but the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said that Dmitrichenko was aggrieved that his girlfriend, the ballerina Anzhelina Vorontsova, was being passed over by Mr Filin for major roles.

The police said Dmitrichenko was the mastermind of the attack, accomplice Yury Zarutsky the assailant who flung acid into Mr Filin's face and Andrei Lipatov the driver at the scene.

"At the current time all three have signed confessions and have been placed under arrest," the police said.

"The necessary investigative work is being undertaken to establish all the circumstances of the crime," they added. Investigators have asked for all three to be remanded in custody.

Contacted by AFP, the Bolshoi Theatre declined to comment on the arrests.

The attack on Filin in January left the former Bolshoi star dancer turned artistic director fighting for his eyesight and risking permanent facial disfigurement.

It also blew apart the refined veneer of the Bolshoi Ballet, exposing bitter infighting and long-held grudges between its managers and dancers.

Dmitrichenko is not one of the half dozen very top male dancers at the company known as premiers but he is a leading soloist, a rank just one level down.

With his shock of long blond hair and demonstrative acting style, Dmitrichenko is one of the Bolshoi's most distinctive dancers.

He won prominence this year by taking the title role in the revival of Yuri Grigorovich's Soviet-era ballet "Ivan the Terrible" to music by Prokofiev about the brutal mediaeval ruler's iron grip over Russia.

Dmitrichenko also enjoyed success in the role of Spartacus in the ballet by Grigorovich of the same name about the Roman slave, the Bolshoi's signature male role with its spectacular scissor jumps.

According to the Bolshoi website, he was due to dance on March 16 in Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Sleeping Beauty", albeit in the ironically innocent-sounding role of the Blue Bird.

The Bolshoi's managing director Anatoly Iksanov had blamed star dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze over the attack, saying he had created the poisonous atmosphere that led to the assault.

Mr Tsiskaridze, a veteran performer and now a popular television personality, denied the claims and in a bitter public row lambasted Iksanov's management of the theatre.

According to Moskovsky Komsomolets, Mr Tsiskaridze had been coaching Dmitrichenko's girlfriend Vorontsova and she had emerged as his star protege.

But Vorontsova's supporters accused Filin of wasting her talent by not giving her the top roles in ballet - notably the double Odette-Odile role in "Swan Lake" - and this had provoked a bitter row with Dmitrichenko.

According to the newspaper, the controversial Mr Tsiskaridze has just two pupils under his charge at the theatre - Vorontsova and the prodigiously talented young male dancer Denis Rodkin.

Mr Filin, who spent about two weeks in a Moscow hospital undergoing a series of operations on his eyes, has since been moved to Germany for rehabilitation treatment that may take months.

The Bolshoi is hoping Mr Filin will recover sufficiently in time to return to work when the troupe makes its high-profile appearance in London this summer.