Bolshoi Ballet Dancer Accused of Acid Attack on Artistic Director Denies Guilt

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Sergei Filin, artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, who was nearly blinded in acid attack January this year.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, who has admitted organizing the attack that nearly blinded Sergey Filin, says he knew nothing of plans to use acid.

MOSCOW -- The Russian ballet dancer accused of an acid attack that nearly blinded the artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater said he would plead not guilty as the first day of his trial got underway Tuesday.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29, has admitted orchestrating an attack on Sergei Filin in Moscow last winter but denies planning to use acid.

Dmitrichenko told reporters that he would deny guilt relating to the use of acid.

The Jan. 17 attack left Filin, 42, with eyes so badly damaged that he needed months of treatment and more than 20 operations at a German clinic.

Dmitrichenko and his two alleged accomplices, Yuri Zarutsky -- said to have carried out the attack -- and driver Andrei Lipatov, face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

The dancer, who has been in custody since being arrested in March, admits organizing the attack but says he only wanted Filin to be roughed up and was shocked when he learned that acid had been used.

The attack left Filin writhing in agony and crying for help on a snowy Moscow street.

It exposed bitter professional rivalries at the Bolshoi Theater, home to one of the world's leading ballet companies.

Dmitrichenko, born into a family of dancers, has told preliminary hearings that he had discussed Filin's power to make and break careers with his co-accused.

Dmitrichenko, the company's leading ballet soloist -- whose photograph and biography remain on the official list of artists on the Bolshoi Theater's website -- accused Filin of favoritism in the distribution of financial grants within the dance company.

The trial, expected to expose more details of the bitter internecine relations at the theater, resumes Oct. 29 after being adjourned Tuesday due to the failure of one of the defense lawyers to attend.