MOSCOW A masked assailant threw acid at the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet in an attack that colleagues said Friday could be in reprisal for his selection of dancers in starring roles at the famed Russian company.
Sergei Filin, a 42-year-old former Bolshoi star, said a man threw the acid into his face late Thursday near the gate of his apartment building in central Moscow. The attacker wore a hood and either a mask or a scarf, so only his eyes were visible, he said.
"I got scared and I thought he was going to shoot me," Filin, his face covered with white bandages, told REN TV. "I turned around to run, but he raced ahead of me."
Colleagues said Filin could be left partially blind.
The Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said he believes the attack was linked to Filin's work.
"He is a man of principle and never compromised," Iksanov said on Channel One state television. "If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down."
Filin knew that someone was threatening him or trying to undermine his position, Iksanov said. He said Filin's car tires had been slashed earlier in the week and that he was targeted this month by hackers who posted his professional correspondence online.
"He said, 'I have a feeling that I am on the front lines,'" Iksanov quoted Filin as telling him Thursday before the attack.
Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova, who visited Filin in the hospital Thursday night, told The Associated Press that his condition was stable but he could lose some of his sight. She also appeared to confirm that a disagreement over roles may have played a part in the attack.
"We never imagined that a war for roles not for real estate or for oil could reach this level of crime," Novikova said on Channel One.
Bolshoi principal dancer Svetlana Zakharova teared up when speaking about Filin.
"We've just realized that the job of a Bolshoi Theater director is very dangerous one," she said.
Iksanov later backed away from the suggestion that the attack was linked to Filin's casting decisions.
"The goal (of the attack) was to create a split and disagreement in the theater's management," Iksanov told journalists gathered at the theater. Channel One deleted his statement from its reports later in the day.