Bolshoi says acid attack mastermind still unidentified

The Bolshoi ballet dancer charged with ordering the acid attack on the troupe's artistic director was not the ultimate mastermind, the theatre claimed Monday after police said they had wrapped up their investigation.

"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, a top solo dancer, was charged on Thursday with causing grievous bodily harm to Filin along with a perpetrator who flung acid in his face and a getaway driver. They have all been remanded in custody and face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

In court, Dmitrichenko, who looked wan with tousled hair, admitted he had asked for Filin 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.

"We have the feeling that someone stood behind Pavel and he either submitted to their influence or involuntarily carried out their will," Novikova said.

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 puppet master, the investigation has to find who that person is," Iksanov added.

Moscow police said last week that they had completed the investigation and all the suspects had been detained, in what appeared to be a triumph of detective work.

Filin's lawyer Tatyana Stukalova told Interfax on Monday that Dmitrichenko "is apparently covering up this puppetmaster so far."

She denied media speculation that Dmitrichenko wrangled with Filin over the roles for his promising young ballerina girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova.

"We understand very well that it has nothing to do with Anzhelina Vorontsova," the lawyer said.

Russian media reported that investigators last week met the theatre's assembled staff, who expressed disbelief that Dmitrichenko was really in charge of the attack.

Dancers also questioned why Dmitrichenko looked so tired and unkempt and suggested he had been pressured to confess, television reported.

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.

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."