Russia hunts suspects in ballet acid attack

Police investigate brutal assault on art director of famous Bolshoi Ballet that is reportedly linked to internal strife.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2013 00:14

Police in Moscow are investigating an acid attack on the artistic director of Russia's famous Bolshoi Ballet, Sergey Filin, Al Jazeera's Emma Hayward has reported.  

Filin underwent surgery on Friday in the Russian capital, to save his eyesight after a masked assailant threw acid on his face, in a gruesome attack the theatre linked to internal conflicts.

A former acclaimed dancer who was appointed artistic director in 2011, Filin suffered third degree burns to the face, head and eyes late Thursday when the attacker cornered him near his house in central Moscow.

The Ren-TV channel showed Filin, 42, speaking in a hospital room after the attack with his face almost totally bandaged.

''I got scared, I thought he was going to shoot me," Filin said. "I turned around to run away, but he overtook me. I was wearing a hood, but he just spilled the acid right up onto my face.''

The assailant fled the scene and no suspects have been identified so far, police said. However, both police and Filin's colleagues had little doubt that the ballet chief was targeted because of his professional work at the Moscow theatre.

"The attack on Sergei Filin bears none of the grace or artistry usually associated with ballet. Instead it reads more like a tragedy," Al Jazeera's Hayward said.

The Boishoi is regarded as one of the world's finest ballet companies, but in recent years has been beset by scandal and resignations, Hayward said.

"This is clearly tied to his professional activities," Bolshoi Theatre general director Anatoly Iksanov said.

Horrible tragedy

Following his eye surgery on Friday, doctors would only be able to evaluate its success in five to seven days, Alexei Levchenko, an aide to Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, described the attack on Filin as a ''horrible tragedy'' and said those responsible will be punished.

The Bolshoi had initially planned to send Filin to a Belgian military hospital for burn injuries but this was cancelled as it became clear saving his eyes was the priority.

Filin has been a subject of harassment for some time; his website and email were hacked, and somebody punctured the tires on his car, according to reports.

The latest attack shocked the ballet community and horrified the Bolshoi troupe, whose usual impeccably controlled stars openly wept with emotion.

One of Filin's predecessors, Alexei Ratmansky, who left the Bolshoi in 2008 and is now a choreographer at the American Ballet Theatre, said what led to the  attack was the Bolshoi's "lack of theatre ethics".
"The tragedy with Sergei Filin is not a coincidence," he wrote on Facebook.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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