MOSCOW - The star dancer accused of masterminding the attack on the Bolshoi ballet chief acknowledged today that he gave the go-ahead for the attack, but told a Moscow court that he did not order anyone to throw acid on the artistic director's face.
The judge, however, refused to release Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko on bail and ordered him and his two co-defendants held until at least April 18 while the investigation continued.
Ballet chief Sergei Filin's face and eyes suffered severe burns in the Jan. 17 attack, which exposed a culture of deep intrigue and infighting at the famed theater celebrated for its grand, classical ballets.
Dmitrichenko said he had complained about the ballet chief to an acquaintance, who offered to "beat him up."
"It's not true that I ordered him to throw acid at Filin," the 29-year-old dancer told the court, speaking from a cage. He said he had never intended for the attack to cause such bodily harm.
Moscow police said today that Dmitrichenko had paid 50,000 rubles (about $1,600) to the man, Yuri Zarutsky, accused of throwing the jar of acid in the ballet chief's face as he returned home late at night. The third defendant, Andrei Lipatov, drove the getaway car, but said in video provided by police that he did not know the purpose of his mission.
Dmitrichenko said he was angered by Filin's decisions on how money was allocated to dancers at the theater:
"I told Yuri Zarutsky about the policies of the Bolshoi Theater, about the bad things going on, the corruption. When he said: 'OK, let me beat him up, hit him upside the head,' I agreed, but that is all that I admit to doing," he said in court.
Police said they had determined that Zarutsky had purchased acid at an auto shop and believe he then heated it to make it more concentrated.
State television has suggested that the dancer was motivated by Filin's refusal to cast his girlfriend, also a Bolshoi soloist, in a starring role.
Filin's lawyer and wife, however, both cautioned against focusing too much attention on the ballerina and said the circle of people involved in the attack was wider than the three men detained this week.
"We believe that investigators still have a lot of work to do to establish all of the facts," Filin's lawyer Tatyana Stukalova said in an interview on Rossiya state television.
The Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, has accused veteran principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze of inspiring the attack. Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theater's management, has denied the allegation.
Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, is coached by Tsiskaridze.
Dmitrichenko and Tsiskaridze are both followers of legendary choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, who led the Bolshoi dance company for three decades. He was forced out in 1995, but remains on the Bolshoi staff.
A string of successive artistic directors tried to bring new energy and a more modern repertoire to the Moscow theater, only to face opposition from dancers and teachers who remained devoted to Grigorovich and his ballets.
Filin, who took up his post in March 2011, was seen as capable of bridging the gap. He was a veteran of the Bolshoi, where he danced from 1989 until 2007, and later served as artistic director of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich Theater, Moscow's second ballet company.
Filin was instrumental in bringing a young Vorontsova to Moscow to study and had hoped she would stay to dance for him at the Stanislavsky. Instead, she joined the Bolshoi.
AP writer Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report.