Russia on Thursday charged a leading Bolshoi dancer with grievous bodily harm after he admitted ordering an assault on the famed ballet troupe's chief while denying ever planning the use of acid.
Russian police charged leading Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, who had made a speciality of playing villains, and the suspected perpetrator and driver under a statute that risks seeing them jailed for up to 12 years.
Dmitrichenko earlier told a Moscow district court he did not tell suspected perpetrator Yuri Zarutsky, who police say the dancer paid to carry out the attack, to fling acid into the face of Sergei Filin.
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.
"I did not want to cause harm," Dmitrichenko told the court, looking wan and haggard as he sat with dishevelled hair in the corner of the courtroom cage dressed in a black parka.
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".
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," said Dmitrichenko.
"The only thing I admit is that I did phone him. He asked me to tell him when Filin would be leaving the theatre. I told him, that I admit to absolutely."
But 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."
Dmitrichenko, Zarutsky and the suspected getaway driver Andrei Lipatov were also all remanded in custody by the Moscow court until April 18.
The defence said that Dmitrichenko had "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.
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.
In court, Dmitrichenko did not make any reference to Vorontsova.
With piercing eyes and a lean face, Dmitrichenko had made a speciality of portraying villains, like Ivan the Terrible and the Evil Genius in "Swan Lake".
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.
Star Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who the theatre's management had accused of creating the atmosphere that led to the attack, declined to give any comment on the investigation.