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Bolshoi dancer gets six years for acid attack

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced a Bolshoi dancer to six years in a penal colony for masterminding an acid attack that nearly blinded the famed company's artistic director.

Former soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko and two co-defendants were found guilty of carrying out a premeditated attack on Sergei Filin in a case that exposed vicious infighting at the storied institution.

The January attack left Filin, 43, nearly blind as the acid flung in his face caused severe injuries to eyes and skin. He underwent dozens of operations and is continuing treatment in Germany.

The high-profile case was the biggest scandal ever to embroil the world's most famous ballet company.

Dmitrichenko, 29, who was known for dancing dark characters like Ivan the Terrible, planned the attack on Filin because he was angry with his management decisions, the judge said.

"Dmitrichenko was unhappy with the way Filin allocated roles and bonuses to dancers, Dmitrichenko worked out a criminal plan," Judge Yelena Maksimova said at the end of the weeks-long trial.

Dmitrichenko, the court heard, was also upset that his ex-girlfriend, the up-and-coming soloist Anzhelina Vorontsova, had been passed over for top roles.

Filin had discovered her as a promising teenager in a provincial town but the two apparently fell out later.

Dmitrichenko asked an ex-convict, Yury Zarutsky, to carry out the attack while a third man, Andrei Lipatov, drove Zarutsky to the scene outside Filin's apartment building, the court heard.

Zarutsky was sentenced to 10 years in a special penal colony for repeat offenders, while Lipatov was handed a four-year prison term in a strict regime colony, like Dmitrichenko.

The three must also pay Filin a total of 3.5 million rubles (about $100,000) in moral and material damages.

A pale Dmitrichenko listened attentively during the hearing, smiling occasionally to friends in the audience. He smiled at his father upon hearing the sentence.

'He'll never dance again'

"The verdict is unfounded, we will appeal," Dmitrichenko's lawyer Sergei Kadyrov said after the sentence was read out.

The sensational case shook up the Bolshoi, leading to the replacement of its general director and the dismissal of a star dancer.

Filin, himself a former dashing Bolshoi principal, last month revealed in emotional testimony that his eyesight was so bad he could not even see his children, saying his attackers must pay for his suffering.

His lawyer Tatyana Stukalova said that she would discuss the court decision with Filin later Tuesday, adding that he is currently receiving more treatment in Germany. If he finds the sentence fair, the defence will not appeal the verdict, she said.

The charge of premeditated bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.

The case left the troupe fractured into ardent supporters and critics of the soloist, leading to the ouster of Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov and the company's flamboyant star dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

Tsiskaridze, who during testimony portrayed Filin as a "provocateur" and a womaniser who poisoned the atmosphere in the troupe, called the ruling "shocking."

"They broke Pavel's life -- he'll never dance again," he told Interfax.

Earlier this week supporters also published an open letter in the Izvestia daily, praising Dmitrichenko as a "proper" man with "wonderful human qualities" and saying his guilt was not proven.

"I would die for Pavel, he is innocent!" one Bolshoi employee in the audience exclaimed at Tuesday's hearing.

Filin denied any conflicts with the dancer, describing him as a complicated young man who often picked arguments and wanted to ruin his reputation.

He recounted a campaign of intimidation that led up to the attack, including the slashing of his car tires and hacking of his Internet page.

Of the three defendants, only Zarutsky admitted to his crime, but said that he acted independently, while Dmitrichenko said he had wanted Filin "roughed up" to teach him a lesson but never envisioned that acid would be used.

The Bolshoi has suffered a string of scandals in recent years, including overspends on its renovation works and smear campaigns.

On Monday the company announced that its chief conductor Vasily Sinaisky had quit unexpectedly just two weeks before the theatre's premiere of Verdi's opera "Don Carlos".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131203/bolshoi-dancer-gets-six-years-acid-attack