Moscow: One of the Bolshoi ballet's best known ballerinas has fled Russia for Canada after receiving threats, it has emerged, as the chief of the troubled company prepares to leave for Germany to receive treatment for wounds sustained in an acid attack.
Svetlana Lunkina told the Izvestia daily she had taken leave from the theatre until the end of the season over troubles stemming from a business dispute over a film in which her husband was involved.
Ms Lunkina said she had already been outside Russia for some six months and that there is no clear link between her problems and the acid attack this month on the Bolshoi ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin.
Nevertheless, the flight from Russia of such a high-profile figure underlines the tense atmosphere at the Bolshoi after the attack on Mr Filin which the management has blamed on internal conflicts.
"I think we need to react to these threats. These people have no right to interfere in our private lives or my professional work," Ms Lunkina told Izvestia without making clear the nature of the threats.
Ms Lunkina, who has danced with the Bolshoi since 1997, is one of the company's most experienced stars and was due this year to appear in a new work by the British choreographer Wayne McGregor.
"I was supposed to be doing a lot of interesting work, including several premieres," she said.
Having wowed the public in the Bolshoi's landmark 2011 staging of McGregor's Chroma, Ms Lunkina was expected to take a leading role in his eagerly anticipated new version of the Rite of Spring at the Bolshoi this year.
Her prolonged disappearance from the Bolshoi stage had already puzzled fans who initially suspected she had suffered an injury before rumours spread that she was no longer in Russia.
Ms Lunkina said the threats were linked to a film project that her husband, the producer Vladislav Moskalyev, had been working on featuring the great Russian imperial ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya.
Mr Moskalyev was dropped from the project after he fell out with his business partner, who is now suing him for $US3.7 million ($A3.57 million).
The Bolshoi's spokeswoman Katerina Novikova confirmed to Izvestia that Lunkina had requested leave for the season and that the company had approved it.
But she said it was unclear how the company could help Lunkina given that the dispute was linked to her husband's work.
"Anna Pavlova also left Russia because of the activities of her husband," Ms Novikova claimed, referring to the great Russian ballerina who quit her homeland in the early years of the 20th century.
Mr Filin, 42, is currently in hospital in Moscow and has undergone several operations to save his eyesight and repair the disfigurement he suffered after a masked attacker threw acid into his face and eyes on January 17.
Russia's chief eye doctor Vladimir Neroyev told the RIA Novosti news agency that Mr Filin, an acclaimed former dancer, would be sent to a clinic in the German city of Aachen in about a week.
Ms Lunkina told Izvestia that she believed Mr Filin's attacker "may not be someone who works at the Bolshoi theatre but someone linked to the theatre and ballet."