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Bolshoi's Sergei Filin: I can't forgive attackers who took my eyesight

By Matthew Chance and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 8:38 AM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "It's not just a problem with my eyes, it's a problem with my heart," says Sergei Filin
  • Filin says he accepts court's verdict for his attackers but cannot forgive them
  • "It hurt all over my skin and I immediately felt an atrocious pain in my eyes," he says of attack

Aachen, Germany (CNN) -- Three men have been sent to prison for the acid attack that nearly blinded Sergei Filin. But the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet says that nothing can give him back what he has lost.

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Aachen, Germany, on the day his attackers were sentenced in a Moscow court, Filin said the attack had dented his spirit as well as leaving him in agony and partially disfigured.

"It's not just a problem with my eyes, it's a problem with my heart," he said.

Filin now wears dark glasses much of the time and has undergone numerous surgeries in Germany since the attack in a Moscow street last January.

3 convicted in acid attack
Dancer found guilty in acid attack

And he bears the pain of knowing that it was one of the dancers in his own world-renowned company who masterminded the attack, star soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko.

Dmitrichenko was sent to prison for six years Tuesday, while accomplice Yuri Zarutsky was sentenced to 10 years and driver Andrei Lipatov got four years.

Filin said he accepts the court's verdict and sentencing -- but he is not prepared to forgive and forget.

"Of course not, I cannot forgive them because there is no sentence nor punishment today that would enable me to recover my eyesight, the eyesight that I once had," he said.

"What will happen in the course of my future treatment, nobody knows. Whatever is ahead, it will be a struggle."

So far doctors have managed to restore some of Filin's vision, but his sight remains impaired.

'It hurt all over my skin'

As a dancer, Sergei Filin was one of Russia's brightest stars.

Now 43, he took up the key role of artistic director at the storied Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, after three years directing Moscow's Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater, amid what was reported to be fierce rivalry.

He won the position but his artistic leadership of Russia's most prominent cultural icon has been marred by scandal, not least the horrific attack he suffered outside his Moscow home.

Filin recalls what happened on that fateful January day, when a masked assailant tossed sulfuric acid into his face.

"What I felt was unbearable agony. It hurt all over my skin and I immediately felt an atrocious pain in my eyes," he said.

"There was lots of snow around and I slid and fell several times. But I felt the cold snow was relieving the pain, so I started covering my face with it."

He was eventually helped by passersby. But the damage was already done -- and the next time he was seen in public, it was with his head swathed in bandages and third-degree burns to his face and eyes.

When it emerged that Dmitrichenko was behind the attack, the dark rivalries and score-settling at the heart of the Bolshoi were laid bare, amid allegations of affairs, corruption and jealousy.

Filin does not believe that different actions on his part might have resulted in a different outcome.

"Those accusations that we have heard have not been underpinned by any evidence," he said. "They are all lies aimed at lessening the degree of guilt or punishment for this crime."

READ: 3 men sentenced in Bolshoi Ballet acid attack case

READ: The power struggle tearing apart the Bolshoi

CNN's Matthew Chance reported from Aachen and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.

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