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An emotional Sergei Filin testifies about Bolshoi acid attack

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MOSCOW -- Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Theater ballet artistic director who suffered serious burns over his face and body from an acid attack earlier this year, made an emotional appearance in court Wednesday, speaking publicly for the first and likely last time.

“I will not forgive anybody for what happened,” Filin, 43, said firmly without looking toward the cage that held the three defendants, Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29, a leading Bolshoi ballet soloist who is charged with masterminding the plan, and two men who have been indicted for carrying it out.

During more than two hours of testimony, Filin broke down, sobbing, as he laid out a detailed picture of the animosity and threats that he said he suffered at the Bolshoi Theater ever since he -- a former Bolshoi star dancer  --  returned to lead its ballet company in 2011. He blamed most of his difficulties on Dmitrichenko.

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Filin appeared in court in a tailored black suit and dark buttoned-up shirt, his pallid and scarred face covered by large sunglasses. Since the attack, he has gone through 23 complicated plastic surgeries and eye surgeries in both Russia and Germany.

During his testimony, Filin had to interrupt the hearing half a dozen times to go into an adjacent room where his doctor administered eye medication.

Filin filed a civil suit against the three defendants Wednesday demanding a $109,000 compensation for material and moral damage.

Near the end of Filin's testimony, Judge Yelena Maximova asked him to explain what he meant by moral suffering. He started to speak but was overcome with emotion, covering his mouth and running into an adjacent room. Filin returned seconds later and continued.

“This is the most difficult part,” he proceeded in a trembling voice, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I lost my vision and I can’t see my children as they are watching my pain from the side.”

Then he began sobbing and the judge asked him not to continue.

Dmitrichenko blandly apologized, saying that he accepted moral responsibility for the attack but immediately added that he had not organized it.

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At the start of the hearing, Filin said he didn’t know and couldn’t identify the two attackers. He said he could remember only “two eyes looking at him from under the hood” before sulfuric acid was thrown into his face on the night of Jan. 17 near his house in downtown Moscow.

“My face was exploding as I was screaming for help as I had never felt this kind of pain before, but help was not coming,” he recalled. “My vision was gone and I was swearing and falling and getting up and stumbling and falling again and yelling. I dropped my phone and since it was white I couldn’t find in the snow to call somebody.”

Filin testified that he believed Dmitrichenko was driven by “envy and extreme animosity” toward him.

Filin said the atmosphere around him was getting thicker before the Jan. 17 attack. Once his email was hacked and “horrendously distorted” copies of his emails were posted on a fake Facebook account. Later his car tires were slashed and his cellphone line was jammed with hundreds of phone calls terrorizing him for more than a week in January.

Filin recalled a "Giselle" rehearsal early in his tenure in which he criticized some corps dancers for a lack of enthusiasm when out of the blue Dmitrichenko lashed out at him in public.

“I was not rude and didn’t insult anybody when Pavel challenged me, asking how come I dared to humiliate the corps de ballet artists,” Filin said. “This sudden burst of indignation on the part of Pavel seemed very odd to me and since then his public attacks against me only continued to persist.”

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“Pavel used any opportunity to slander and blacken me as if I was guilty of all the sins of the Bolshoi Theater,” Filin said.

When Dmitrichenko befriended a young ballerina, Angelina Vorontsova, he began to corner Filin at every chance on her behalf demanding that she be given a leading role in "Swan Lake," Filin said. He did promote her from the corps de ballet to a soloist but she never starred in "Swan Lake."

“Pavel once came to me and he said that he was not satisfied with his position and the position of Vorontsova and that one day he will become a principal dancer and she a prima ballerina anyway,” Filin said. “And he hinted that he knows everything about the money I allegedly steal from theater’s grants.” (Dmitrichenko often accused Filin of unfairly dividing the state grants for the company, Filin said.)

Following an article that was critical of his performance, Filin said that Dmitrichenko implied that someone in the theater had “ordered the story" and he said to Filin that he, Dmitrichenko, had then “ordered” someone to take care of the journalist.

“I thought that might be his way of delivering me a message that I may be punished like that too but I didn’t pay much attention to his words then,” Filin recalled.

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In court Dmitrichenko had a chance to ask questions and he accused Filin of sleeping with ballerinas under his command including Olga Smirnova, Maria Alexandrovna and Natalia Malanina.

Filin rejected the accusations as “outright lies.”

“I am being accused that they are dancing [leading parts] thanks to my alleged intimate relations with them,” he said. “My wife [also a Bolshoi ballerina] has been in intimate relations with me for over 10 years but she can’t dance like Smirnova. I had a chance to promote [my wife] to a soloist position from but she is still with corps de ballet where she was. I have a wonderful family. I have three kids and I love my wife as I have loved her for many years.”

Filin never turned his head toward Dmitrichenko, who has been jailed since last March. He asked the judge to allow him not to attend any more of the trial  as he was preparing for a new, 24th surgery in Germany later this month.

sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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