Bolshoi’s artistic director attacked with acid

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MOSCOW (AP) - A masked assailant threw acid at the artistic director of Russia’s Bolshoi Theater ballet troupe, an attack that Bolshoi representatives said may cause him to lose his eyesight and appeared to be linked to power struggles at the famed ballet company.

Sergei Filin, a 42-year-old former ballet star, was approached late Thursday night by a man who threw the acid at his face as he got out of his car outside his home in central Moscow, police spokesman Arkady Bashirov said. Theater officials said the man was masked.

The theater’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said he believed the attack was linked to Filin’s work.

“He is a man of principle and never compromised,” Iksanov said on Channel One state television. “If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down.”

Filin knew that someone was threatening him or trying to undermine his position at the theater, Iksanov said. He said Filin’s car tires had been slashed earlier this week and he was targeted in early January by hackers who posted his professional correspondence online.

“He said `I have a feeling that I am on the front lines,’” Iksanov quoted Filin as telling him Thursday before the attack.

Iksanov later backed away from the suggestion that the attack was linked to Filin’s casting decisions.

“The goal (of the attack) was to create a split and disagreement in the theater’s management,” Iksanov told journalists gathered at the theater. Channel One deleted his statement from its reports later in the day.

Bolshoi principal dancer Svetlana Zakharova teared up when speaking about Filin.

“We’ve just realized that the job of a Bolshoi Theater director is very dangerous one,” she said.

Filin, who danced for the Bolshoi from 1989 until 2007, was appointed artistic director of the Bolshoi’s ballet company in March 2011. Before returning to the Bolshoi, he served as artistic director at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater, Moscow’s second ballet company.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova, who visited Filin in the hospital Thursday night, told The Associated Press that his condition is stable but he could lose his sight. She also appeared to confirm that a disagreement over roles may have played a part in the attack on him.

“We never imagined that a war for roles _ not for real estate or for oil _ could reach this level of crime,” Novikova said on Channel One.

Several stars at the Bolshoi including Nikolai Tsiskaridze, one of its most celebrated dancers, have complained about what they call Filin’s unfair treatment of dancers at the theater.

Alexei Ratmansky, who was Bolshoi ballet’s artistic director from 2004 until 2008, described an atmosphere of intrigue at the theater.

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