MOSCOW – Russian police said Tuesday they arrested three men in the acid attack that nearly blinded the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet, including a star dancer suspected of masterminding the plot.
Sergei Filin was left with severe burns to his eyes and face when a masked attacker threw a jar of sulfuric acid in his face as he returned home late on Jan. 17. The 42-year-old former dancer is now undergoing treatment in Germany.
Interior Ministry spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky said Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko is suspected of planning the attack.
Police also arrested the suspected perpetrator of the attack and the man believed to have driven him to and from the scene, the spokesman said.
It was unclear whether either man had any connection to the famed ballet company.
Dmitrichenko, who joined the Bolshoi in 2002, has danced several major parts in recent years, including Ivan the Terrible in the ballet of the same name.
Bolshoi Theater spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said management was not aware of a conflict between him and Filin. Channel One state television reported that Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, however, also a Bolshoi soloist, was known to have been at odds with Filin.
The Bolshoi Theater is one of Russia's premier cultural institutions, best known for "Swan Lake" and the other grand classical ballets that grace its stage. But backstage, the ballet company has been troubled by deep intrigue and infighting that have led to the departure of several artistic directors over the past few years.
Filin's colleagues have said the attack could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for prized roles. Filin told state television before he checked out of a Moscow hospital that he knew who ordered the attack but would not name the person.
The Interior Ministry said the alleged perpetrator, 35-year-old Yury Zarutsky, was arrested in the Tver region north of Moscow. Earlier in the day, police had detained and questioned the suspected accomplice, whom the spokesman identified as Andrei Lipatov. No other details were provided.
Russian news agencies reported that Lipatov had been detained in the town of Stupino, a sprawling Moscow suburb that has summer houses owned by the Bolshoi Theater and used by its dancers and management. Dmitrichenko said in a recent interview that he was managing the dachas in his spare time.
In a February interview with Snob magazine, the Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said the attack on Filin was inspired by longtime principle dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
"I don't blame that particular crime on him, but I'm accusing Nikolai of escalating the situation at the theater, of putting psychological pressure on the theater's staff and management, on Filin, on myself and teachers," he said.
Tsiskaridze, a long-time critic of the theater's management, has denied the allegation and accused Iksanov and his allies of fueling the dispute.
Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, was coached by Tsiskaridze.
Many ballet stars, including Anastasia Volochkova, have sided with Tsiskaridze. Alexei Ratmansky, the Bolshoi ballet's artistic director from 2004 until 2008, has likened the atmosphere at the theater to "a disgusting cesspool" and said that the attack stems from "the lack of any ethics at the theater."
Ratmansky is now an artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theater in New York.