Court rules Bolshoi dancer guilty of acid attack

3rd December 2013, Comments 0 comments

A Russian court on Tuesday found a Bolshoi soloist and two others guilty of an acid attack on the theatre's artistic director in a sensational case that exposed the dark underbelly of the storied company.

Former dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko and his two co-defendants were found guilty of inflicting premeditated grievous bodily harm on Sergei Filin, ruled Judge Yelena Maksimova.

The January attack left Filin nearly blind as the acid flung in his face caused severe injuries to eyes and skin. He underwent dozens of operations and is continuing treatment in Germany.

The attack marked the biggest scandal to embroil the world's most famous ballet company and revealed the vicious infighting simmering beneath the surface of a theatre staging elegant ballets and stunning operas.

The judge ruled that Dmitrichenko, who was known for dancing dark characters like Ivan the Terrible, came up with attacking Filin because he was unsatisfied with how the artistic director was managing dancers.

"Dmitrichenko was unhappy with the way Filin allocated roles and bonuses to dancers, Dmitrichenko worked out a criminal plan," Maksimova said in the grand finale of the high-profile trial that has gripped the ballet world for weeks.

Dmitrichenko asked an ex-convict acquaintance, Yury Zarutsky, to carry out the attack while a third man, Andrei Lipatov, drove Zarutsky to the scene outside Filin's apartment building, the judge said.

Prosecutors have asked for a nine-year sentence in a penal colony for the 29-year-old dancer.

The judge was expected to announce the sentence later Tuesday after spending several hours reading out the reasoning for her sentence, as a pale Dmitrichenko attentively listened, smiling occasionally to his friends in the audience.

The sensational case shook up the Bolshoi, leading to the replacement of its general director and the dismissal of a star dancer.

Filin last month revealed in emotional testimony that his eyesight was so bad he could not even see his children, saying his attackers must pay for his suffering.

The charge of premeditated bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, but prosecutors last week asked for a nine-year sentence for Dmitrichenko, 10 years for Zarutsky and six years for Lipatov.

The trio had been held in pre-trial detention since March and appeared in the packed courtroom sitting in a cage, the place where defendants sit in Russian courtrooms.

The trial has revealed shocking details, with 43-year-old Filin sharing information about his personal life and denying rumours that he favours ballerinas based on "intimate relations" with him.

He told of awful moments of writhing in the snow in unbearable pain after the attacker flung the liquid in his face.

Zarutsky did not deny his guilt but said that he acted independently and never told Dmitrichenko of plans to use acid.

Dmitrichenko meanwhile argued that he merely wanted someone to beat up Filin. He is said to have been frustrated by lack of promotion under Filin for himself and his girlfriend Anzhelina Vorontsova, and accused the artistic director of running the troupe as his personal "puppet theatre".

The Bolshoi has suffered through a string of scandals in the past several years, including overspending on its renovation works and smear campaigns.

The theatre sacked one of its star dancers, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, and general director Anatoly Iksanov, after they gave several damaging interviews on the case. The government instead hired Vladimir Urin from another Moscow theatre to head Bolshoi.

But with Urin in the seat since July, the scandals just keep coming.

Last month, a young US ballerina announced to the media that she had quit the company after just one year because she was asked to pay a hefty bribe for a chance to perform a solo on stage.

On the eve of the verdict, the Bolshoi announced Monday that its chief conductor Vasily Sinaisky had also quit unexpectedly just two weeks before the theatre's premiere of Verdi's opera "Don Carlos".

© 2013 AFP

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