published Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Suspect in acid attack on Bolshoi chief detained

MOSCOW - Police have detained a suspect in the January acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

Sergei Filin was left with severe burns to his eyes and face when an unidentified attacker threw sulfuric acid in his face on Jan. 17 as he was returning home from work. He is now undergoing treatment and rehabilitation in Germany.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that a suspect in the attack was detained on Tuesday and is being questioned at a Moscow police station. Police officers are also searching the suspect's home, the statement said, without providing any details on the suspect.

Bolshoi Theater spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said she does not know if the suspect is related in any way to the famed theater. She said police were not present at the theater on Tuesday.

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 Moscow 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 last few years.

Filin's colleagues have said the attack on the former ballet star could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for prized roles. Filin told Russian state television before he checked out of a Moscow hospital that he knew who ordered the attack but wouldn't give names.

Novikova told reporters on Tuesday that the attacker had an accomplice and police is now looking for that person.

"We hope that today's detention means that this crime will be solved," she said.

In a February interview with the Snob magazine, the Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said the attack on Filin was inspired by longtime leading dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

"I don't blame that particular crime on him, but I'm accusing Nikolai of escalating the situation at the theater, of putting psychological pressure on the theater's staff and management, on Filin, on myself and teachers," he said.

Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theater's management, has denied the allegation and accused Iksanov and his allies of fueling the dispute.

Many ballet stars, including Anastasia Volochkova, have sided with Tsiskaridze. Alexei Ratmansky, the Bolshoi ballet's artistic director from 2004 until 2008, likened the atmosphere at the theater to "a disgusting cesspool" and said that the attack stems from "by the lack of any ethics at the theater."

Ratmansky is now an artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theater.

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