Sergey Filin, Bolshoi Theater ballet chief, attending a press conference on the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the International Benois de la Danse Ballet Prize.(RIA Novosti / Ruslan Krivobok)
The Bolshoi Theater’s artistic director was attacked by a masked assailant in Moscow who splashed acid onto his face. Sergey Filin is suffering from severe burns, and may lose his sight. Police have linked the attack to his professional work.
The 42-year-old former dancer, now the Bolshoi Theater’s artistic director, was attacked near midnight on Friday as he left his car outside his home in central Moscow. The masked assailant then fled the scene.
The artistic director of the legendary Russian theater suffered severe burns of multiple degrees to his face and eyes, and is being treated at a hospital in Moscow where doctors are working to save his eyesight.
Filin is “in a satisfactory condition, in our burns center, not intensive care,” a hospital spokesperson said. Medics also suggested that Filin will need plastic surgery, and said the acid had affected his hair, which will start falling out soon, forcing him to wear a wig.
“The most threatening thing is that he has third-degree cornea burns which put his eyesight in danger,” medics explained. However, it will not be known for two weeks whether Filin will be able to keep his vision, Moskovsky Komosomolets newspaper reported citing the doctors.
The theater’s supervisory board said it decided to send Filin to a foreign clinic for treatment, indicating Germany and Israel as the two main options, Interfax news agency reported.
It will take Filin at least six months to recover, Bolshoi spokesperson Ekaterina Novikova said. She added that Sergey Filin had received threats from anonymous callers before. “We never imagined that a war for roles — not for real estate or for oil — could reach this level of crime,” Novikova said to Channel One.
Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov said he believed the attack was linked to Filin’s work at the theater. “He is a man of principle and never compromised,” Iksanov said. “If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down.”
Filin’s mother said that the threats began on December 31. The Bolshoi’s artistic director’s Facebook page and his email account were hacked shortly before the attack, and his car tires were reportedly slashed on Friday. Someone also called Filin repeatedly, but kept silent when he picked up the phone.
Police said that Sergey Filin’s professional activity is believed to be the primary reason behind the attack. Security forces are looking into the attack, and said that the assailant, if convicted, could face up to eight years in jail for inflicting willful damage to health.
The former Bolshoi ballet star was appointed as the theater’s artistic director in March 2011 amid fierce rivalry for the position.
The Bolshoi Theater reopened in October 2011 after a massive six-year reconstruction effort.