Pavel Dmitrichenko looks out from the defendant's holding cell during a court hearing in Moscow on Thursday. Dmitrichenko, a Bolshoi Ballet dancer accused of organising an attack that nearly blinded the Russian theatre's artistic director, said in court that he did not intend for the victim to be splashed with acid. Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
A Bolshoi ballet dancer who is accused of ordering an acid attack on the company's ballet chief pleaded not guilty Tuesday as his trial began in Moscow.
Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko is suspected of ordering the Jan. 17 attack on ballet artistic director Sergei Filin, which left Filin with severe burns to his face and his eyes, impairing his vision.
Dmitrichenko entered his plea as a Russian judge began hearing the trial into the attack that has exposed a fierce power struggle at the famous Russian theatre.
Two other men on trial with the ballet dancer are Yuri Zarutsky, the suspected attacker, and Andrei Lipatov, the driver who allegedly took Zarutsky to the crime scene.
In his court testimony Tuesday, Dmitrichenko contested prosecutors' allegations that he colluded with Zarutsky, an ex-convict, to attack the artistic director.
Zarutsky was planning to send his daughter to a ballet school and was asking for his advice, the ballet dancer said, explaining how Zarutsky found out who Filin was.
"I had no animosity toward Filin," Dmitrichenko said. "Zarutsky committed the crime on his own."
Dmitrichenko told the court that he did tell Zarutsky that he disapproved of Filin's management style. But he insisted that he always spoke highly of Filin, a former ballet star, as an excellent dancer.