Acid thrown at Bolshoi Balletís director

A masked man threw acid in the face of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet, on Thursday night, leaving him with third-degree burns and possibly threatening his eyesight, Bolshoi officials said on Friday morning.

The attack followed a series of anonymous threats to Filin, 42, a dancer who rose through the ranks of the world's largest ballet company to become its head.

Investigators have not ruled out a dispute over money or property, but are focussing on the theory that Filin was targeted because of his work, a police spokesman told the Interfax news service.

As dancers kept an overnight vigil at the burn unit where he is being treated, his colleagues said they suspected professional jealousy was behind the attack. In recent weeks, his car was scratched and tyres punctured, and his cellphones and personal e-mail account were hacked, his associates have said. A relative offered to supply Filin with a bodyguard, but Filin refused because he did not believe the threats would lead to physical violence, said Dilyara Timergazina, his assistant and adviser.

The threats, she said, "don't show that someone with great conceptual thinking is behind that, but someone very primitive, with unhealthy aspirations ó I don't know how to put it ó someone full of hate."

Katerina Novikova, the Bolshoi's press spokeswoman, said Filin was opening the gate to his residence when a masked man called out his name and threw the contents of a bottle in his face. After the attack, he was able to see out of one eye but not the other, Timergazina said.

An official at the theater told the Interfax news agency that he would be sent overseas, probably to Germany or Israel, for treatment. Doctors have said his recovery may take as long as six months.

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