Russian ballet star Nikolai Tsiskaridze has vehemently denied allegations he was involved in the acid attack on his Bolshoi Theatre colleague Sergei Filin and insists he is the victim of a "witch hunt".
Filin, artistic director of the Bolshoi, suffered third degree burns when acid was thrown in his face by an unidentified assailant as he travelled home in Moscow last month (Jan13), and doctors are now fighting to save his sight.
Tsiskaridze, the Moscow ballet company's principal dancer, has now spoken out about the grisly attack and accused bosses at the ballet company of instigating a "witch hunt," even comparing the atmosphere backstage to the communist rule of dictator Joseph Stalin.
Tsiskaridze tells the Bbc, "It's like being back in the days of Joseph Stalin. They're (Bolshoi bosses) organising meetings against me, they're trying to force staff to sign letters condemning me... But all the ballet teachers in the Bolshoi refused to sign it.
"They decided to use this as an excuse for a witch hunt to get rid of all the people they don't like."
Tsiskaridze, who was among the members of the company interviewed by police after the attack on Filin, goes on to deny he had any involvement in what happened to his colleague, adding, "There is no way I can be linked to this crime... They (police) asked me basic questions, like when did I first meet Sergei Filin, what were relations like between us - and so on. I told them: 'I've got more than a cast-iron alibi, I have a cast-iron and concrete alibi.' At the time of the attack, I was at the Moscow Arts Theatre with thousands of other people..."
Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova says, "Nikolai constantly complains to the Bolshoi management on all possible grounds. He never loses a chance to do so, so in this sense he continues his regular line."