Wednesday 17 January 2018

Russian police arrest man over acid attack on Bolshoi director Sergei Filin

By Shaun Walker

Russian police have arrested a suspect in the acid attack that nearly blinded the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre.

The man was detained before dawn in the small town of Stupino, just outside Moscow, and is thought by police to have thrown the acid at 42-year-old Sergei Filin. The person who ordered the assault, which damaged the reputation of one of the world’s most famous theatres, is still at large.

Mr Filin is currently undergoing treatment in Germany to mitigate the consequences of the attack on 17 January. He was apprehended by a hooded assailant wielding a vial of sulphuric acid outside his Moscow apartment in mid-January. After surgical intervention, Russian doctors were able to salvage Mr Filin’s sight, and he is now receiving further treatment in Germany for his sight and facial burns. He has said he hopes to return to work as soon as possible and is still speaking to his dancers by telephone and Skype.

A police source told the Russian agency Interfax that the person arrested this morning was not a member of the Bolshoi’s troupe, however added that a number of employees and dancers at the theatre were still being investigated by officers. Russian media has played up a dispute between Mr Filin and Nikolai Tsiskaridze, one of the theatre’s leading dancers who has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the Bolshoi management, criticising the theatre publicly and repeatedly and effectively being banned from dancing. He has denied all responsibility for the attack and eventually condemned it, although his first reaction was to say “such things have always happened”; later he suggested that the whole story may have been staged for publicity.

Having questioned the majority of the employees and administrators of the theatre during their investigation into the acid attack, police returned to the Bolshoi this morning to conduct further searches. A raid was also carried out on a Moscow address belonging to relatives of the man arrested, according to the police source.

The incident has caused further embarrassment to the Bolshoi, which in recent years has been in the headlines more for intrigue off the stage than for its ballet and opera productions. A previous leader of the ballet troupe had to resign after pornographic photographs of him were disseminated online, while the theatre’s costly renovation programme has been plagued with allegations of corruption and incompetence.

Ballet performances at the theatre have continued despite the attack on Mr Filin.

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