By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A dancer accused of plotting an acid attack on the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director said on Friday that his former boss acted like a tsar and treated his troupe like puppets.
Pavel Dmitrichenko, who gained fame on the Bolshoi stage playing villains, was testifying in court on the events leading up to the attack in January that nearly blinded Sergei Filin.
The dancer also said the man accused of throwing the acid in Filin's face had threatened to do the same to Dmitrichenko's girlfriend if he went to the police.
The disfiguring attack and subsequent revelations of power struggles at the Bolshoi have blackened the reputation of Russia's premier cultural institution. Filin, whose power at the Bolshoi can make or break careers, has had more than 20 operations to save a portion of his eyesight.
"Sergei treated his team as though they were puppets," said Dmitrichenko, leaning against the bars of the cage in which he was held during the hearing. "Whatever he said, that's how it had to be - not any other way."
The Bolshoi soloist confessed to organizing the attack in a police video days after the incident. But he said while he gave the alleged attacker, Yuri Zarutsky, permission to beat Filin, he never imagined he would use acid.
Dmitrichenko said that when he learned from his girlfriend, fellow dancer Anzhelina Vorontsova, that Filin had been splashed with acid, he confronted Zarutsky about going to the police.
"He grabbed me by the throat and told me: 'Son of a bitch, if you go to the police, I'll do the same with your girl and your family.' I was horrified because I realized he was capable of it," said the dancer, after asking for water.
Dmitrichenko has accused his former boss of favoritism, unfair distribution of money among staff and having love affairs with ballerinas. He said that in one encounter, Filin told him his rule should be like that of a tsar.
Filin, who came face-to-face with Dmitrichenko earlier this month in court, dismissed the accusations as "pure lies" prompted by envy.
The attack has shocked people even in a country where the violent settling of scores has been common since the Soviet Union collapsed in chaos more than two decades ago, and has damaged the prestige of an enduring symbol of Russian culture built under Empress Catherine the Great.
(Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Mark Trevelyan)