MOSCOW (AP) — A leading Bolshoi dancer suspected of involvement in an acid attack on the theater's ballet chief would keep his job if acquitted by a court, the Bolshoi director said Tuesday.
Anatoly Iksanov made the statement after 300 Bolshoi employees issued an open letter defending 29-year-old leading soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, who was arrested last week on suspicion of organizing the Jan. 17 attack on artistic director Sergei Filin that severely burned his eyes and face.
Dmitrichenko told a Moscow court last week that he gave his blessing to the attack, but never expected that that the assailant would go as far as to throw acid in Filin's face. He said he was angry at Filin for what he described as corruption and favoritism at the theater.
Bolshoi dancers said in the open letter that they believe that Dmitrichenko slandered himself under "brutal pressure" by police. The letter said that police failed to produce any evidence of Dmitrichenko's guilt and demanded that the government launch an independent probe into the case.
Reacting to the letter, Iksanov called a hastily-arranged news conference to say that Dmitrichenko, who has recently starred in the title part of Ivan the Terrible, won't be fired unless found guilty.
"If the court proves his innocence, then, sure, we will have no legal grounds to fire Dmitrichenko," he said.
Iksanov said he shares the ballet troupe's concern that the "investigation could be biased" and said he believes Dmitrichenko when the dancer says he was plotting the attack, but not the violent form that it took.
The Bolshoi's director pledged to keep Dmitrichenko on payroll for the time being, but added that it is virtually impossible for a dancer to return to work after a year's break. It is unclear when his trial could start and how long it could last.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that police will conduct a fair probe.