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A leading Bolshoi dancer who has made a speciality of playing villains admitted in court on Thursday that he ordered an assault on the famed Russian ballet troupe's artistic director but denied ever planning the use of acid.
Appearing before a Moscow district court, leading Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko claimed he did not tell the man who carried out the attack to fling acid into the face of Sergei Filin, who is now battling to save his eyesight.
"I did not want to cause harm," Dmitrichenko told the court, looking wan and haggard as he sat in the corner of the courtroom cage dressed in a black coat with dishevelled hair.
The court remanded Dmitrichenko, as well as the suspected perpetrator Yuri Zarutsky and the suspected getaway driver Andrei Lipatov in custody until April 18.
Dmitrichenko admitted he had been angered by Filin's behaviour as artistic director, in a row that reportedly was triggered by the ballet chief's refusal to let his dancer girlfriend take the star role in "Swan Lake".
The acid attack left Filin, 42, battling to save his eyesight and prevent permanent facial disfigurement. He is now undergoing a long rehabilitation in Germany.
The defence had asked for Dmitrichenko to be released on 500,000 rubles ($16,280) bail and said that he "de-facto" admitted his guilt while denying he had wanted to cause such serious harm to Filin.
"My client never had any intention of causing such harm to health, especially not in a loathsome way like disfiguring the face or causing the loss of sight," said defence lawyer Alexander Barkhanov.
Police said in a statement that Dmitrichenko had paid Zarutsky 50,000 rubles ($1,630) to attack Filin, who had the acid thrown in his face while returning home on the night of January 17.
Dmitrichenko said that it was Zarutsky who had originally suggested attacking Filin as a way of getting back at him for what Dmitrichenko considered his bad leadership of the Bolshoi.
"I told Yuri Zarutsky about the politics that took place in the Bolshoi Theatre, about the violations that took place and the corruption," Dmitrichenko said in televised comments.
"Then he (Zarutsky) suggested: 'Okay, then I'll beat him up' and I agreed to his suggestion. That is all that I am admitting," said Dmitrichenko.
He added: "I couldn’t believe that this guy who offered to beat him up went and did all this with the acid. Basically I was in shock."
-- 'She did not get the big roles' --
Police have said the crime was motivated by Dmitrichenko’s hostile personal relationship with Filin, which Russian press reports have suggested was caused by the Bolshoi chief's refusal to give his ballerina girlfriend Anzhelina Vorontsova top roles.
"The main motive was enmity towards Filin, who according to the suspect, had a negative attitude towards his partner," a police source told the Izvestia newspaper.
"Dmitrichenko said that Filin was thwarting Vorontsova's artistic career and did not give her the main roles," said the source.
In a tale of bitterness reminiscent of the hit ballet film "Black Swan", Dmitrichenko is reported to have been particularly riled that Vorontsova was not allowed to dance the main Odette-Odile role in "Swan Lake", the dream of any ballerina.
Filin's wife Maria told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that her husband had suspicions about Dmitrichenko but believed that a "much wider" circle of people was involved.
"Not just the three who they arrested. We hope the security forces unearth those who are implicated in this," she said.
Police however said in a statement that the case was "solved" and no further arrests of suspects were expected.
Some staff at the Bolshoi Theatre have suggested that Dmitrichenko's actions are impossible to comprehend given his own career was on the up after he took the title role in the ballet "Ivan the Terrible".
With piercing eyes and a lean face, he had made a speciality of portraying villains, like Ivan the Terrible and the Evil Genius in "Swan Lake".
The third man arrested, driver Lipatov, insists he just drove to where he was told and had no idea of what Zarutsky was planning.