MOSCOW -- The long-awaited court case on the ugliest and most chilling incident in the Bolshoi Theater's history opened in a small courtroom Tuesday but stopped almost as soon as it started.
The case of the acid attack on Bolshoi ballet artistic director Sergei Filin was adjourned for a week because of the absence of one of the lawyers.
The key suspect, Pavel Dmitrichenko, however, managed to have his proud moment. When asked to state his occupation and position, the exhausted looking dancer, dark circles around his eyes and under a disheveled head of hair, summoned all the dignity he could muster and said distinctly: "I was a leading [ballet] soloist of the Bolshoi Theater."
After the brief proceeding, Dmitrichenko's lawyer, Sergei Kadyrov, said his client was not guilty.
"There is not a shred of evidence in the case which could implicate Pavel in the crime wrongly attributed to him," Kadyrov said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times after the abortive hearing.
"Under no circumstances did he compel Zarutsky to attack Filin. He didn't even discuss with Zarutsky a possibility to cause serious harm to Filin's health, let alone use sulfuric acid for this."
Earlier this year Dmitrichenko, 29, was charged with hiring Yuri Zarutsky to throw sulfuric acid into the face of Filin, 42 on Jan. 17.
According to the investigation reports, Filin arrived at his house and was trying to open the compound gates when a masked Zarutsky threw the contents of an acid-filled bottle into his face and ran away. Another defendant, Andrei Lipatov, reportedly picked up Zarutsky in his car.
Dmitrichenko purportedly had a problem with how Filin assigned roles and was upset that Filin reportedly barred Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, soloist dancer Angelina Vorontsova, from getting a key part in "Swan Lake."
Filin suffered third-degree burns as well as extensive damage to his eyes. He went through 22 plastic and eye surgeries, most in Germany.
The former Bolshoi ballet star, who was hired to lead its ballet company in 2011, returned to work at the Bolshoi in August of this year.
But he must wear protective eyeglasses at all times, Katerina Novikova, spokeswoman for the Bolshoi Theater, told The Times.
"Both of his eyes are impaired, one of them very seriously and he will still have to undergo more than one surgery, I am afraid," she said.
Neither Filin nor his lawyer was in court Tuesday.
Last week Dmitrichenko's lawyer complained that his client had been beaten up by masked guards after a preliminary hearing, an allegation denied by the authorities.
Dmitrichenko's elderly parents were in the courtroom Tuesday, expressing confidence that their son was innocent.
"I am sure my son is not guilty," said Dmitrichenko's mother Nadezhda Dmitrichenko. "This whole show was set up and organized by none other but Filin. Pavel is our third child and he is the most gifted and delicate. He just could never do such a thing!"
If convicted Dmitrichenko may face up to 12 years in prison.
Bolshoi officials were not in court Tuesday.