Bolshoi dancer to go on trial over acid attack

MOSCOW - A Bolshoi dancer accused of organising a horrific acid attack against the famed Moscow ballet company's artistic director goes on trial Wednesday in a process that is set to shed more light on infighting inside the troupe.

Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko faces up to 12 years in jail after being charged with planning a January assault against his former boss Sergei Filin.

He is being held in detention along with two suspected accomplices who are also going on trial - Yury Zarutsky, who is accused of flinging the acid in Filin's face, and a driver who who drove the assailant to the scene named Andrei Lipatov.

Wednesday's session is a preliminary hearing that will deal with procedural issues rather than the essence of the case.

The attack outside Filin's apartment block in Msocow left the 42-year-old artistic director and former ballet star with severe facial burns and an almost complete loss of eyesight.

But it also laid bare the rifts and jealousies that run deep at one of the world's most prestigious artistic institutions - one that has been Russia's calling card since the Bolshoi's formation in 1776.

Dmitrichenko is suspected of ordering an attack on Filin in an act of personal revenge. He has admitted to being angry at the limited role played at the ballet theatre by his then girlfriend and fellow dancer Angelina Vorontsova.

The 29-year-old Dmitrichenko has since been ousted by the company while Vorontsova has quit the Bolshoi and is now dancing with the Mikhailovsky ballet in Saint Petersburg to considerable acclaim.

Dmitrichenko - who was often cast in dark roles such as Ivan the Terrible in the ballet of the same name and the Evil Genius in "Swan Lake" - admitted to having artistic differences with Filin but denies ever wanting to see him so badly hurt.

The trial is expected to expose the inner workings of the Bolshoi at a time of great upheaval at the venerable company.

The Bolshoi over the summer fired its general director Anatoly Iksanov and replaced him with Vladimir Urin of the Moscow Stanislavsky Theatre.

Dmitrichenko told a bail hearing in August that he had asked Zarutsky to organise an attack that would send Filin a message but not leave him permanently hurt.

Filin triumphantly returned to the company's historic home in Moscow in September after undergoing multiple operations in Germany on his eyes.

But he wore a thick pair of wrap-around sunglasses - a sign that he is still battling for his sight and will likely need more operations abroad before returning to his post full-time.

Filin has been replaced as the ballet company's artistic director on an interim basis by veteran dancer Galina Stepanenko but still retains huge sway over the company.