* Bolshoi artists publish open letter to Putin
* Some dancers say confession by top dancer "unconvincing"
By Thomas Grove and Maria Tsvetkova
MOSCOW, March 12 Artists at Russia's Bolshoi
ballet asked Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to order a new inquiry
into the acid attack on the troupe's artistic director, fearing
the dancer arrested for the assault was only a pawn in the case.
Three hundred performers said in a letter to Putin they
believed Bolshoi star Pavel Dmitrichenko had only confessed to
plotting the Jan. 17 attack that almost blinded Sergei Filin
because of police pressure.
The Moscow police declined to comment, but the letter
suggested there could be many more twists in a case that has
shocked Russia and shone a spotlight on bitter rivalries at one
of its most respected institutions.
The Bolshoi's management and Filin himself have suggested
Dmitrichenko acted on someone else's orders to organise the
attack, in which a masked assailant flung a jar of acid in the
director's face outside his Moscow apartment.
"The conclusions of the investigation appear to us hasty and
the proof unconvincing, and the confessions of Pavel himself a
result of harsh pressure he was put under," said the letter
addressed to Putin and others in the government and theatre.
"We are asking for an honest and unbiased investigation into
the tragedy that happened to Sergei Filin," it added, requesting
the creation of a commission to look into the crime.
Dmitrichenko, 29, who played the murderous Russian monarch
Ivan the Terrible and the villain in Swan Lake, appeared in
footage shown on state television last week looking haggard and
tired as he confessed to organising the incident.
He has defended himself by saying he had not wanted acid
used. His lawyer was quoted by the Rapsi legal news agency on
Tuesday as saying that he was ready to agree to a plea bargain
but would not accept full responsibility for the crime.
Two other men suspected of being Dmitrichenko's accomplices
in the attack, including the man who allegedly threw the acid,
also confessed to the crime. Moscow police say Dmitrichenko paid
them 50,000 roubles ($1,600).
Interviewed on state television on Tuesday, Filin, wearing
sunglasses and wrapped in heavy clothing that only exposed his
nose and mouth.
"Someone pushed (Dmitrichenko) into it," said Filin, 42,
from Germany where he is receiving treatment.
"Every moment, every meeting with Dmitrichenko for me was
another threat, another demonstration of hostility and I don't
want to hide that now."
SYMBOL OF CULTURE
The day after Dmitrichenko's confession, dancer Yevgeny
Sazonov said, investigators assembled 200 of the theatre's
performers to outline their version of what had happened in the
case, which many dancers still refuse to believe.
Sazonov, a dancer with sandy blond hair, said more than half
the dancers did not believe in Dmitrichenko's guilt.
"The whole story is unbelievable. It's unbelievable that
this happened to Sergei, and it's unbelievable that Pavel took
part in it," he said, speculating that police may have pressured
Dmitrichenko into confessing.
The theatre, in the shadow of the Kremlin, is scheduled to
perform Sleeping Beauty this month. Dmitrichenko had been cast
as the Blue Bird but has been replaced.
A symbol of Russian culture since the time of Catherine the
Great, the Bolshoi Theatre, which opened last year after a
multi-million dollar renovation, has seen its share of scandal.
The ballet troupe has had five artistic directors since
1995, and a candidate for the post quit in 2011 after
pornographic images of him were posted on the Internet.
Anatoly Iksanov, the longtime Bolshoi general manager, has
depicted the acid attack as an effort to further blacken the
reputation of the theatre's leadership and said he doubts that
Dmitrichenko alone was behind it.
"There are an entire series of facts that suggest that
someone else may have ordered the attack, maybe someone from
outside of the theatre, and investigators should look into
that," he said after the publication of the letter.
Media have reported Dmitrichenko's motive was his
relationship with partner Anzhelina Vorontsova, a ballerina whom
other dancers said Filin had "squeezed" out of the best parts.
In court, Dmitrichenko alleged "corruption" at the Bolshoi
and accused Filin of favouritism in distributing grants.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Andrew Roche)