Bolshoi ballet chief leaves for Germany treatment

The Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director on Monday left Russia for Germany in the hope of recovering his eyesight after an acid attack, claiming he knew the mastermind behind the gruesome assault.

Sergei Filin -- almost unrecognisable from the boyish-looking ex-dancer who headed the Bolshoi for the last two years -- walked out of hospital wearing dark glasses and his face swollen.

"I feel good, I would even say excellent. If only my eyes saw a bit better," Filin told journalists as he left the Moscow burns unit to head for the airport accompanied by his wife.

"I sometimes open my eyes but what I see is only just enough to be able to sense objects or to wash, that is the maximum. We're not talking about any serious vision at the moment," he said.

The 42-year-old has already undergone five operations on his eyes since being rushed to hospital on January 17 after being splashed in the face with sulphuric acid in an attack that he has linked to his work at the theatre.

The attack on Filin outside his apartment block in central Moscow revealed the dark intrigues swirling at the Bolshoi where Filin was a star dancer before going into management and becoming the ballet troupe's artistic director in 2011.

In an interview with Russian television aired late Sunday, Filin said he believed he knew who masterminded the attack and reaffirmed his belief it was linked to his work.

"My heart knows who did it and in the depths of my soul I have the answer to this question, but it is my perception, my imagination, and so far it's only what I can think to myself."

The attack was carried out by a man with his face concealed by a scarf, Filin said, adding he was sure that the perpetrator was simply carrying out a mastermind's orders.

"Of course, the person who splashed me with acid from a jar and the people who ordered it are totally different people," he told Rossiya 24 state television.

"This is linked to my professional activities. It was not something spontaneous," he said.

He linked the attack on him to the case of former Bolshoi ballet director Gennady Yanin, who in 2011 was forced to quit after a smear campaign in which photographs showing him apparently engaged in gay sex were posted on a website.

"I think it is quite a serious aftermath of the incident that happened with Genanady Yanin when he was at the Bolshoi Theatre," Filin said, saying he believed the attackers struck after failing to find similar compromising material on him.

"They were collecting negative information, that is for sure. They needed more than half a year to realise they wouldn't find what they were looking for."

He declined to comment further on the ongoing police investigation, which has included interviews with Bolshoi dancers including the prominent male star Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

"I think that in the nearest future we will learn the answers to the questions that interest you," Filin said.

Filin's facial skin appeared reddened and tight but the greatest damage evident was to his eyes, which he blinked frequently and only opened to slits during the interview, his first public appearance without a protective mask.

"I'm ready to go around completely bald or look absolutely like Frankenstein," he joked.

During Filin's sick leave, veteran ballerina Galina Stepanenko has taken over as the troupe's artistic director but the theatre decided to cancel a major March premiere, a new staging of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."

Apparently still mindful of his security, the Bolshoi will not name the German clinic where Filin will be treated, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The Russian health ministry has said Filin will fly to the German spa town of Aachen. Doctors said Filin will require several plastic surgery operations and more treatment on his eyes in the coming weeks.

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