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Leader of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet suffers serious burns in acid attack

MOSCOW — A masked man threw acid into the face of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet, on Thursday night, leaving him with third-degree burns, Bolshoi officials said Friday morning.

The attack followed a series of anonymous threats to Filin, 42, a dancer who rose through the ranks of the world's largest ballet company to become its head.

Investigators have not ruled out a dispute over money or property but are focusing on the theory that Filin was targeted because of his work, a police spokesman told the Interfax news service.

As dancers kept an overnight vigil at the burn unit where he is being treated, his colleagues said they suspected professional jealousy was behind the attack. In recent weeks, his tires were punctured and his car scratched, and his cellphones and personal email account were hacked and his correspondence was published, his associates have said.

A relative had offered to supply Filin with a bodyguard, but Filin refused because he did not believe the threats would lead to physical violence, said Dilyara Timergazina, his assistant and adviser.

The threats, she said, "don't show that someone with great conceptual thinking is behind that, but someone very primitive, with unhealthy aspirations — I don't know how to put it — someone full of hate."

Katerina Novikova, the Bolshoi's spokeswoman, said Filin was opening the gate to his residence when a masked man threw the contents of a bottle into his face.

Filin was expected to be flown to Belgium for further treatment at a military hospital for burn victims. Doctors earlier in the day said his recovery may take as long as six months. While his injuries included severe burns on his eyes, the Bolshoi said late Friday that Filin was not in danger of fully losing his eyesight.

The Bolshoi has a reputation for intrigue and outsized emotions, but Novikova said she never imagined it could lead to violence.

"Sergei was constantly receiving threats after he took up this post, and his predecessors were under attack before him," she told Russia's Channel One. "We never thought that this war for roles — and not for real estate or for oil — could reach such a criminal level. And we always wanted to believe that people connected with theater would have a minimal level of morality. That's why this is an absolutely frightening story."

Leader of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet suffers serious burns in acid attack 01/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 10:44pm]

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