Bolshoi star sues theatre in acid attack row

A star dancer at the Bolshoi ballet on Tuesday launched legal action against the venerable Russian theatre in a bitter row over interviews he gave following the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze, 39, is a big-haired media personality who has taken part in celebrity television shows and makes no secret of his dislike for the Bolshoi Theatre management led by long-term director Anatoly Iksanov.

On Tuesday his lawyer Svetlana Volodina went to a Moscow court to demand the theatre cancel official reprimands against him that leave him at risk of being fired.

The reprimands related to interviews where he called for the theatre management to be sacked and for himself to be put in charge. Tsiskaridze did not put in an appearance in court.

Tsiskaridze gave the interviews after a shocking sulphuric acid attack on Filin causing eye injuries and facial skin damage for which he is receiving treatment in Germany.

Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko later confessed to asking an accomplice to attack Filin and has been charged along with two others, although he said in court he had simply asked for Filin to be beaten up.

The attack prompted both Tsiskaridze and Iksanov to give astonishingly frank media interviews badmouthing each other.

Iksanov said that Tsiskaridze bore moral responsibility for creating a poisonous atmosphere in which such an attack was possible, while Tsiskaridze compared the theatre's atmosphere to that of the Stalin-era purges and even questioned whether Filin really had acid flung at him.

The Bolshoi responded by issuing Tsiskaridze with two reprimands. If he gets one more, that would be sufficient grounds for dismissal under labour laws, and the reason for which his lawyer went to court seeking for the reprimands to be withdrawn.

A Bolshoi lawyer, Alina Kudryavtseva, told the court that the theatre was ready to settle out of court if Tsiskaridze withdrew his suit.

"The only condition that will suit us is full cancellation of the reprimands," Volodina told journalists after the initial hearing.

Tsiskaridze is a premier, the top rank of dancer, although his age means that he is now looking beyond dancing to a management role at the theatre.

The dispute was an eye-opener to many of the chilly relations within the world-famous troupe which is the top cultural draw in Moscow in its iconic columned theatre.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday.