Doctors were fighting to save the eyesight of Sergei Filin, 42, after a masked assailant approached the renowned dancer outside his home in central Moscow on Thursday night and threw acid in his face. Doctors said he suffered third-degree burns to his face and neck.
The attack is the latest, and most gruesome scandal to strike Moscow’s famed Bolshoi theatre. His predecessor, Gennady Yanin, was forced to step down in 2011 after a suspected rival leaked erotic photos of him online.
Filin was approached by the masked assailant as he was returning home around 11pm, reported Life News, a tabloid known for its sources inside the police and security services. He had been at an event marking what would have been the 150th birthday of legendary director Konstantin Stanislavsky, it reported. The assailant identified Filin by name before throwing acid in his face, it said.
CCTV footage showed the man running through a snow-filled car park after the lightning-fast attack.
Filin’s mother, Natalia Filina, said her son had been the target of threatening phone calls for the past month and that she knew who ordered the attack. “I know who this person is and will definitely tell law enforcement agencies,” Filina told Life News. “My son was threatened on the phone, particularly in the past month. He was followed. And today it all reached its peak.”
Katerina Novikova, the Bolshoi’s spokeswoman, said Filin’s tyres had been slashed several times recently, and that his email and Facebook page had been hacked this month in order to leak information that would discredit him.
Police are investigating whether the attack was linked to Filin’s job at Moscow’s most famous theatre. Some dancers have complained publicly that Filin treated them unfairly.
Anatoly Iskanov, the Bolshoi’s general director, said he wanted police to search for the attacker among “those who wanted to compromise the theatre”. He told Channel One, a state-run television channel, that he had met Filin earlier on Thursday and they had talked about the threats against him. “He told me he felt like he was on the frontlines,” Iskanov said.
Filin danced at the Bolshoi from 1988 to 2007, after which he served as artistic director at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko theatre, Moscow’s second ballet company. He returned to the Bolshoi as artistic director of its ballet in March 2011.
Channel One said Filin would be sent to Belgium for further treatment.
“He’s holding up, but he’s in a lot of pain,” Filina told the channel.