Russian police have failed to find the person who threw acid in the face of the director of the Bolshoi ballet (video), more than three days after the attack in a Moscow street.
Sergei Filin remains in hospital and has undergone an operation to restore his sight. Police said on Sunday they had identified the liquid thrown at Filin as sulphuric acid.
A masked attacker approached the 42-year-old outside his home on Thursday evening and threw a jar of acid in his face, leaving him with third-degree burns and his eyesight threatened. A second operation on Filin’s eyes is planned later this week.
Alexander Mitichkin, the chief doctor at the Moscow hospital treating Filin, said he was responding well to treatment. “Filin spent the night calmly, and slept without painkillers,” he told Itar-Tass, a Russian news agency.
The attack on Filin came after weeks of threatening phone calls from unknown numbers. His car tyres were repeatedly slashed and, last week, his email and Facebook page were hacked and compromising messages leaked.
Anatoly Iskanov, the general director of the Bolshoi, said police had arrested the suspected hacker. But police in Moscow said this weekend they had arrested no suspects in the acid attack.
The brutal attack has sent shockwaves through Moscow’s political and cultural elite. Dancers at the Bolshoi were stunned that the violence that has long plagued Russia‘s business and human rights communities could seep into the arts world.
In a show of solidarity, the country’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, visited Filin on Saturday. “Sergei is holding up with great courage,” Medinsky told journalists outside the hospital. “He’s behaving in a very dignified way and 99% of our talk was devoted to cultural plans, the Bolshoi’s new premieres, and who should lead the troupe during these difficult times.”
“He had no complaints about life – it was a professional talk that even surprised me,” he said.
Iskanov, who accompanied Medinsky, said investigators had already questioned Filin as they searched for his attacker. Speaking to a Russian TV station last week, Filin said he suspected his work at the Bolshoi had prompted the attack.
The acid attack has laid bare the poisonous atmosphere that has gripped the Bolshoi. Once the pinnacle of Russian cultural achievement, the theatre has been beset by scandal in recent years. Even a much-vaunted reopening in October 2011 was marred by accusations of corruption and poor workmanship.
The attack has also exposed a wave of violence that has swept Russia’s arts world. Last week, the director of a St Petersburg theatre’s production of Lolita was beaten up by unknown men. In the same city earlier this month, a museum devoted to Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita, was defaced.
In December, a director at Moscow’s Gogol Theatre, Alexey Malobrodsky, was beaten up. After the attack on Filin, the theatre’s new artistic director, Kirill Serebrennikov, revealed he had also been receiving threats. He published one threatening text message on his Facebook page: “Malobrodsky probably didn’t tell you what we said while we were beaten his Jewish mug, but if you don’t leave the Gogol Theatre then you will be next. Happy New Year, with new feelings. They’ll beat you in a grown up way. Wait for it.”