MOSCOW — A Russian court on Tuesday ordered a soloist in the Bolshoi ballet suspected of ordering a horrific acid attack on its artistic director Sergei Filin to stay behind bars until at least June 18, rejecting a petition for him to be freed.
The judge extended the arrest of leading Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko for the investigation to finish, agreeing with the prosecution's arguments that he has been charged with a serious crime and constitutes a flight risk.
The dancer disagreed, telling judge Natalya Konovalova: "I absolutely do not intend to flee. I want and intend to prove in court that the investigation is mistaken."
Dressed in jeans, trainers without laces and a navy open-collared top, Dmitrichenko appeared in good spirits at the packed hearing in the Tagansky district court, smiling and chatting to supporters and family through the bars of his cage.
"Thank you to everyone who came to support me," he said.
His lawyer Violetta Volkova argued in court that 155 staff at the Bolshoi had signed a letter testifying to Dmitrichenko's good character and supporters were prepared to post bail of 500,000 rubles ($16,000, 12,000 euros).
Thirty people were ready to give guarantees that he would not skip bail, she added, complaining that the ballet star was unable to train and would lose his professional skills in prison.
"Russia could lose one of its best dancers," she said.
It is still not clear when the trial will start into the attack on Filin, which left the artistic director with serious eye damage and facial disfigurement.
The assault was the worst scandal in the history of the great Russian theatre, and has exposed bitter internal rifts.
Russian police detained Dmitrichenko in March, along with the suspected acid-thrower and an alleged getaway driver in the plot against Filin.
The other two suspects also had their detention extended till June.
Dmitrichenko initially made a televised confession which his lawyers later retracted.
He has not yet submitted a plea on the charge of causing serious bodily harm in an organised group, for which he faces up to 12 years in jail.
The perpetrator in the attack, unemployed ex-convict Yury Zarutsky, carried out a much harsher assault than the dancer had requested, his lawyer argued.
"What happened was an excessive act by the perpetrator and Pavel Dmitrichenko did not participate in the crime that he is charged with," Volkova told journalists.
"He never had the intention to cause serious bodily harm."
Volkova said her client would appeal and a hearing was likely in the next couple of weeks.
Before his arrest, Dmitrichenko had been assigned several prominent roles at the Bolshoi and became known for playing antagonists such as the feared tsar in the ballet "Ivan the Terrible".
The case has sparked a very public rift between the theatre's general director Anatoly Iksanov and star dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze that has spilled into an ongoing employment dispute.
In interviews, Iksanov accused Tsiskaridze of creating a poisonous atmosphere that led to the acid attack while the dancer called for the entire management to be sacked.
Filin is set to undergo the latest in a series of eye operations to transplant eye tissue, his lawyer Tatyana Stukalova told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.
German doctors treating him said last month that they hoped to return workable sight in both his eyes.
In a strange echo, the same court hosted hearings in the case of Pussy Riot punk band, under the same judge.
The defence team also includes two lawyers who defended Pussy Riot over a political performance in a church, for which two band members have been jailed for two years.
Copyright © 2013 AFP