MOSCOW - A Bolshoi ballet dancer pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the high-profile trial in Moscow over a horrific acid attack on the troupe's artistic director Sergei Filin.
"I don't understand the essence of the charge. I do not confess my guilt in full," leading soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko told a Moscow district court.
An attacker flung sulphuric acid in Filin's face outside his apartment building in January, causing serious burns to his eyes and skin.
Investigators have accused Dmitrichenko of masterminding the assault on 43-year-old Filin, charging him with causing grievous bodily harm.
The 29-year-old smiled at supporters as he was led into the packed courtroom, wearing a grey patterned jumper and trousers.
The case has exposed the bitter infighting at the Bolshoi and shocked fans of one of the world's top ballet companies.
Prosecutors accuse Dmitrichenko of asking an unemployed ex-convict, Yury Zarutsky, to splash acid in Filin's face.
At an earlier hearing, Dmitrichenko said he only asked Zarutsky to beat him up.
Dmitrichenko's lawyer Sergei Kadyrov told journalists outside the court that he "does not accept his guilt as it is formulated. He will say later exactly what he did."
Dmitrichenko said in court that he had refused to take a lie-detector test as he feared "entrusting my fate to a machine".
A third man, Andrei Lipatov, is charged with driving the two men to and from the scene. He is pleading not guilty.
The three face up to 12 years in a penal colony.
Zarutsky has said that he acted alone, motivated by negative stories Dmitrichenko told him about Filin and a sense of outrage since he wanted his daughter to learn ballet.
"I partially confess my guilt. I accept that I attacked Filin but don't accept that I did it in a plot with Pavel Dmitrichenko and Andrei Lipatov," Zarutsky said in court Tuesday.
The judge Yelena Maksimova adjourned the hearing until Thursday.
Filin, a former Bolshoi principal dancer, is set to appear in court to testify.
The attack caused serious damage to Filin's vision and he has undergone around 20 operations in Russia and Germany.
Prosecutors have not given a clear motive for the attack on Filin, who at the time was in charge of assigning roles in Bolshoi productions.
Last month Filin returned to the theatre after German doctors said the sight in one of his eyes was restored to 80 per cent, while the other can still only see large objects.