More than 300 performers from Moscow's Bolshoi Theater have come out in defense of a top dancer charged with masterminding an acid attack on the troupe's artistic director.
Pavel Dmitrichenko initially admitted to organizing the attack but later said he never intended for acid to be used.
The Bolshoi cast, in an open letter to President Vladimir Putin and the government, said the "very idea" that Dmitrichenko ordered the brutal attack on Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi artistic director, seemed "absurd."
Bolshoi Theater ballet dancer Yevgeny Sazonov said no one in the theater believes Dmitrichenko is guilty.
"The whole troupe thinks that Pavel is innocent, that there's something different going on here," Sazonov said. "The letter calls for a thorough investigation of this matter, setting up some kind of commission to find the true source of the problem."
Members of the theater said in their open letter that conclusions made by investigators seemed "premature," the evidence "unconvincing," and Dmitrichenko's confession "the result of strong pressure."
Bolshoi Theater board-of-trustees member Mikhail Sidorov lamented that the episode surrounding the attack on Filin and the alleged role of a dancer from the theater had distracted attention from the respected image of the Bolshoi Theater.
"The dirt that has been thrown on the Bolshoi, that is, of course, terrible," Sidorov said. "It's a blow to its image. And what the directors should do, what the troupe should do, and what they do everyday is put on their phenomenal performances."
Filin is recovering from serious eye and face burns suffered when an attacker threw acid in his face on January 17.
Dmitrichenko and two other suspects were arrested last week.
Based on reporting by Interfax and AFP