The Bolshoi dancer accused of organising an acid attack that nearly blinded Sergei Filin has pleaded not guilty, saying he held no animosity towards the theatre's artistic director.
Prosecutors claim that Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29, a soloist known for his powerful portrayal of Ivan the Terrible, commissioned an unemployed former convict to attack Filin because of artistic differences. But the dancer told the first day of his trial in Moscow: "I do not admit guilt in full. I did not agree in advance with either [co-defendants Yuri] Zarutsky or [Andrei] Lipatov that Zarutsky approach Filin and splash acid on him ... I did not have any hostile attitude toward Filin." While he previously said he agreed to the idea of "roughing up" Filin, he has since denied that he ever asked Zarutsky to make such an attack.
Zarutsky, who has previously admitted the assault, pleaded guilty and told the court that he acted entirely alone. Lipatov has been accused of driving Zarutsky to the scene of the attack on January 17.
After charges had been read and pleas entered, Judge Elena Maksimova adjourned the trial for a day.
The first day of court proceedings came a day after another Bolshoi dancer, who lost his job over the attack, landed one of the country's top ballet jobs.
Nikolai Tsiskaridze, 39, was widely recognised as one of the Bolshoi's most talented dancers, but his outspoken criticism of the management, including Filin, culminated in his departure. He has been appointed acting director of St Petersburg's Vaganova Ballet Academy.