By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director told a Russian newspaper he had received threats for more than a month before a masked attacker threw acid in his face last week but his request for protection was rebuffed.
Sergei Filin, who has been in the high-pressure job at the heart of Russian culture for nearly two years, had surgery to treat severe facial burns on Tuesday and was preparing for a second eye operation on Wednesday to preserve his sight.
His remarks to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper will fuel speculation over what provoked the attack outside his Moscow apartment building as he returned home on Thursday night.
Filin did not go into details on the threats. But dancers and administrators have suggested the motive may have been envy or resentment.
"On December 15 I was in the office of the theatre's general director and asked for protection and help, because I had heard a serious threat addressed to me," he was quoted as saying in the interview published on Tuesday.
"But the director told me that, well, we have hard jobs, that he himself had worked as if on the front lines for 12 years already, and that it was necessary to take courage and find in oneself the strength not to react to these threats."
Filin's job gave him the power to make or break careers at the theatre known for its rivalry and intrigue.
Foreign ballet figures who have visited "say that the troupe is in excellent form," Filin told the newspaper. "But from the inside we are always hearing some sort of dissatisfaction."
"When everything is going well, that may also not please everybody," Filin said.
WANTS TO WATCH SONS GROW
Filin, 42, said that it had been suggested he get a driver and bodyguards, but he did not make clear who had made the proposal.
He said he regretted not having spoken publicly about the threats late last year.
"I bring out aggression in somebody. Sooner or later that aggression was sure to turn into concrete action," he said, though he had not realized the extent of the danger.
"I could imagine that photos showing me onstage naked could appear on the Internet, or something more absurd - let's say, in a steam bath with Cindy Crawford. That can be done with today's technology. But I did not believe direct violence was possible."
Doctors performed an operation on Filin's eyes on Friday and another was scheduled on Wednesday.
"I have three sons. I want to see how they grow up, how they stand up on their feet," Filin said in the interview.
The general director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Anatoly Iksanov, said shortly after the attack Filin had told him of incidents in which his car tires were slashed and his email account hacked.
Iksanov has said Filin's job will be waiting for him, but former Bolshoi prima ballerina Galina Stepanenko was named on Tuesday as his temporary replacement at the ballet, which is scheduled to put on La Bayardere on Thursday.
Stepanenko, 46, danced with Filin in Swan Lake in the 1990s at the Bolshoi, where he was a principal dancer for years.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)