MOSCOW (AP) — The chief of the Bolshoi ballet company, testifying against the ballet star charged in the acid attack that took much of his vision, said Wednesday that dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was a volatile and threatening man.
Dmitrichenko is on trial for allegedly masterminding the Jan. 17 attack on Sergei Filin. Filin lost most of his sight in one eye and 20 percent in the other. He wore dark glasses as he testified in his first court face-off with Dmitrichenko.
The ballet chief described Dmitrichenko as an "explosive and emotional" person who was always stirring up trouble in the theater, which was known for its cutthroat competition and backstage intrigues long before the attack forced the issue into the open.
"Pavel was always threatening me indirectly," Filin said in his nearly three-hour testimony, according to the Russian court news service RAPSI. "(He) turned any situation against me and did everything possible to slander me."
Filin, who testified for the first time during the trial Wednesday, is seeking more than $100,000 in compensation for damages in the attack. Over the course of three hours, the ballet chief did not turn once to face Dmitrichenko, who sat behind bars in the courtroom cage — as suspects are required to do in most criminal trials in Russia.
Prosecutors say the 29-year-old ballet dancer Dmitrichenko colluded with ex-convict Yuri Zarutsky, who allegedly carried out the attack on Filin outside his home. "I felt something was wrong, and then suddenly — liquid," said Filin, describing the attack. "My vision dimmed, and I experienced a pain I've never felt in my life."
Dmitrichenko has pleaded not guilty and insists that Zarutsky acted of his own accord. The dancer says that Zarutsky asked for his professional advice because he was planning to send his daughter to a ballet school, which was how Zarutsky found out who Filin was.
The pair face 12 years in prison if convicted of collusion, but that number could drop if the two are sentenced individually. "I didn't know about what was going to happen to you," Dmitrichenko told Filin during the session. "I still don't relieve myself of moral responsibility."
But toward the end of the court session the dancer also turned the guns on Filin, blaming him in part for the negative atmosphere in the theater and citing several incidents in which troupe members were driven to tears during heated conflicts with the artistic director.
Filin did not deny the incidents but retorted that it was simply part of the "artistic process." The attack has brought backstage drama into the limelight, leading to major shake-ups in the theater. Former Bolshoi chief Anatoly Iksanov and former principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, archrivals who fueled openly about the direction of the theater, were ousted from their positions in the summer.