A Bolshoi ballet dancer charged with ordering an acid attack on the troupe's artistic director was not the ultimate "puppeteer" behind the plot, the theatre said Monday after police said they had solved the case.
"We have doubts that Pavel Dmitrichenko was the final mastermind of the attack on Sergei Filin. The leadership of the Bolshoi Theatre feels the same," theatre spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told the Interfax news agency.
Dmitrichenko, 29, a top solo dancer known for playing villainous roles including Ivan the Terrible at the venerated theatre, was charged on Thursday with causing grievous bodily harm to Filin.
He has been remanded in custody and faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted, along with a perpetrator who flung acid in Filin's face and a getaway driver.
In court, Dmitrichenko, who looked wan with tousled hair, admitted he had asked for Filin, 42, to be beaten up but insisted he had not requested an acid attack and said he had been shocked by the scale of the injuries.
The theatre's general director Anatoly Iksanov told state television in an interview late Sunday that he believed Dmitrichenko was simply a "pawn" in the attack.
"I am sure, as is the whole company, that someone pushed him to do this. Therefore he was not the real mastermind that he is being presented as today, but some kind of perpetrator, some kind of pawn in other hands," Iksanov said.
"There is a puppeteer, the investigation has to find who that person is," Iksanov added.
Moscow police said last week that they had solved the case and all the suspects had been detained, in what appeared to be a triumph of detective work. On Monday they cautioned against drawing conclusions while the investigation continues.
Filin's lawyer Tatyana Stukalova told Interfax on Monday that Dmitrichenko "is apparently covering up this puppeteer so far."
She denied speculation that Dmitrichenko had wrangled with Filin over the roles for his promising young ballerina girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, 21.
"We understand very well that it has nothing to do with Anzhelina Vorontsova," the lawyer said, adding that Filin would ask for the "harshest possible punishment."
But Dmitrichenko's lawyer, Alexander Barkanov, pointed out that his client had not given any evidence on working for a mastermind.
"This is all conjecture," Barkanov told Interfax, while saying he would fight for a less harsh charge for his client.
Russian media reported that investigators last week met several hundred of the theatre's assembled staff, who expressed disbelief that Dmitrichenko had really organised the attack.
"The troupe was particularly concerned that he was arrested practically without proving his guilt," one dancer, who asked not to be named, told Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.
"The only proof appeared later: his personal confession after he was questioned at night after being held for 48 hours without food," the dancer alleged.
The shocking assault left Filin with serious eye damage, for which he is now being treated in Germany, as well as facial disfigurement.
Filin told Russia's Itogi magazine that he had felt under threat ever since rejoining the Bolshoi as artistic director, in an interview published Monday that was given before Dmitrichenko's arrest.
Filin said he believed some had opposed his appointment as artistic director and were disappointed that their favoured candidate lost out on the job.
"I can say for sure that they freed the post of artistic director for another person, not for me," he said.
The frontrunner for the job, Gennady Yanin, had to step down in 2011 from his post as manager at the ballet after gay pornographic shots apparently featuring him were posted online.
Filin compared the scandal to choreographing a ballet, saying: "We are watching a ballet with many acts, including the compromising photographs of Yanin and continuing with the acid in my face -- and I'm afraid it's not over yet."