MOSCOW (Reuters) - A suspect was detained on Tuesday over an acid attack that nearly blinded the artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet and put a spotlight on infighting at one of the world's great theatres.
Sergei Filin, 42, was badly burned when a masked assailant threw sulphuric acid in his face outside his Moscow apartment as he returned home late on January 17. He is now in Germany having treatment that is expected to save his sight.
A brief statement from Moscow police said the person detained was "one of the suspects" in the case and was being questioned. Until now, police had detained no suspects and questioned only witnesses over an attack that shocked Russia.
LifeNews, a Russian website with close ties to the police, and Interfax news agency quoted a police source as saying the suspect was a man who had been seized in a police raid in Moscow's suburbs and was not an employee of the Bolshoi Theatre.
His home was being searched and he was suspected of carrying out the attack itself, LifeNews said.
"This is good news for us," Katerina Novikova, the Bolshoi Theatre's spokeswoman, said of the suspect's detention.
"And if they have managed to find the person who carried it out (the attack), there is hope that they can find the person who ordered it," she said.
Filin was left writhing in agony in the snow for about 20 minutes after the attack. As artistic director of the theatre's ballet company, he had the power to make or break careers in the fiercely competitive world of ballet.
He said before heading to Germany last month that he believed he knew who was behind the attack and that it might be connected to his work. He said he would not reveal a name until police made an announcement on the case.
HISTORY OF INTRIGUE
The theatre has been no stranger to intrigue since it was built under Empress Catherine the Great in 1776 and the ballet troupe has gone through five artistic directors since 1995.
In 2003, Bolshoi bosses were heavily criticized for trying to fire ballerina Anastasia Volochkova for being too heavy. In 2011, deputy ballet director Gennady Yanin - then seen as a candidate for the artistic director post - quit after pornographic images of him appeared on the Internet.
The theatre, near Moscow's Red Square, reopened to great fanfare in 2011 after a six-year, $700-million renovation that restored its tsarist opulence but was criticized for going far over budget.
It has regularly been under fire over its artistic program since then.
Leading Russian cultural figures wrote to President Vladimir Putin last November calling for the dismissal of the Bolshoi's general manager, Anatoly Iksanov. Among his critics are veteran dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who challenged him for his job.
The Bolshoi dismissed the criticism, saying it failed to take into account the troupe's latest performances.
A prominent current affairs television show, Post Scriptum, blamed the management last month for failing to prevent scandals.
(Editing by Pravin Char)