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Crime

Acid attack threatens sight of Bolshoi Ballet director

Russian doctors have been battling to save the eyesight of the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director after he was the victim of an acid attack. Police suspect the incident may be linked to the ballet's notorious infighting.

The Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin suffered severe burns after being confronted by a masked attacker outside his apartment.

The assailant is reported to have thrown acid in Filin's face before running away.

"I got scared, I thought he is going to shoot me," the 42-year-old told Russia's REN-TV television channel. "I turned around to run, but he raced ahead of me," he said.

Bolshoi director attacked

Filin (pictured above) was taken to hospital, where medics were fighting to save his sight after he sustained third-degree burns.

"His condition is grave, but his life is not in danger," the news agency AFP reported Bolshoi's spokeswoman, Katerina Novikova, as saying. "Right now the main thing is to save his eyes."

"That such things can happen in the sphere of culture is hard to fathom," Novikova added.

Far from universally popular

Since taking control of the Bolshoi in 2011, Filin has steered the theater away from classical repertoires in favor of more modern and innovative productions. But, while Filin is held to be a popular figure, the director has experienced his fair share of creative disagreements during a relatively brief tenure, including the departure of some major stars. Some of the changes he has made at the Bolshoi - which has an eminent status in Russian culture - have also been far from universally popular.

Earlier in the month, Filin reported a campaign of harassment that included having his email hacked into and his car tires slashed.

"This is clearly tied to his professional activities," Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov said. "I really hope that the person who ordered (the attack) is found," he added. "This person is a monster."

There have been power struggles within the Bolshoi Ballet throughout much of the company's history, which spans over 200 years. In the Soviet era, dancers were said to have spiked each other's shoes with glass, and star ballerina Galina Ulanova was sent threatening letters.

rc/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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