Attacked Bolshoi chief set for Germany treatment

The Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director was preparing Sunday to move to a German clinic from a Moscow hospital where he is recovering from an acid attack he blames on a colleague at the storied but bitterly divided troupe.

The 42-year-old Sergei Filin has already undergone five operations on his eyes since being rushed to the emergency unit on January 17 after being splashed in the face with sulphuric acid by a masked assailant.

The incident shocked the global artistic community and exposed the acerbic infighting and clan politics that continue to haunt one of Russia's most treasured international brands.

Filin has been replaced on an interim basis at the Bolshoi by the veteran ballerina Galina Stepanenko.

But his importance to the ballet was confirmed last week when the Bolshoi decided to drop its biggest premier of the year -- a new version of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring".

The artistic director himself appears remarkably cheerful as he metes out almost daily interviews to the world press while bandaged save for a few holes for his eyes and mouth.

Law enforcement authorities are under intense pressure to make progress after both Filin and Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov accused someone inside the theatre of being responsible.

"I've said many times that what happened was connected solely with my work in the Bolshoi," Filin told the BBC in an interview released on Sunday.

But he also refused to name the suspected culprit despite being "absolutely certain" he knew his or her name.

"I will only speak about this when investigators are ready to announce this," he said.

The Russian health ministry said Filin would fly to the German spy town of Aachen on Monday for what promises to be an extended treatment and rehabilitation period.

"The rehab could continue for a fairly long time," spokesman Oleg Salagai told the Interfax news agency.

Doctors said Filin will require several plastic surgery operations and more treatment on his eyes in the coming weeks.

The father of three has always said that his sight remained his main concern because it impacts directly on his family and work.

"I never considered myself to be handsome to begin with," the former principal dancer joked in one recent Russian interview.

The police had vowed to use lie detectors to question witnesses and have already interviewed Nikolai Tsiskaridze -- a top dancer and Russian television celebrity who has fought with Filin for many years.

But both Tsiskaridze -- who denies all involvement -- and the other stars have refused to submit to the polygraphs as is their right under Russian law.

The decision has only raised further suspicion in the Russian media about the honesty and moral integrity of some of dance's biggest names.

The country's mass circulated Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid remarked that "lie detector tests are a standard procedure that are used for the sole purpose of helping the investigation."

Filin himself said the attack was ultimately linked to the bruised egos and irritation of those who got overlooked for top performance roles.

"I am a very honest person. I have my opinions on things. I take tough decisions," he told the BBC.

"Perhaps there are people who did not like that."