Leading Bolshoi ballerina Svetlana Lunkina says she is the unwitting partner in a vicious pas de deux involving her entrepreneurial husband and a prominent business partner over a botched movie project.
This week, the 33-year-old dancer announced she was leaving the world-famous Moscow-based company for Canada where she has lived off and on for the past 10 years, saying she is the victim of threats and blackmail in the form of defamatory letters sent to international ballet companies, including the National Ballet of Canada, that allege she is an accomplice in a crime.
That crime is money laundering, which Vladimir Vinokur, a well-known former Soviet comedian and actor who heads the Vinokur Foundation of Arts and Culture, has publicly accused her of in interviews with the Russian media.
Mr. Vinokur also on Wednesday accused Ms. Lunkina and her husband – 50-year old Vladislav (Slava) Moskalev, a Canadian citizen – of having links to the brutal Jan. 17 acid attack on Bolshoi director Sergey Filin with whom Ms. Lunkina had recently fallen out.
Mr. Vinokur told state radio this week that Mr. Moskalev had threatened Mr. Filin and that he believed Mr. Moskalev may be linked to the attack that maimed the former dancer, nearly blinding him. On Thursday, however, Mr. Vinokur told the Moscow Evening News that he was withdrawing any such statements, calling them rumour.
"Even he knew it was too big of a lie," said Mr. Moskalev.
Ms. Lunkina says that Mr. Vinokur has already authored defamatory letters about her, sent this fall by his foundation to various international ballet companies. She said such letters were addressed to the Vienna State Ballet, the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov), her own Bolshoi ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, among others. Asked about the receipt of these letters, the National Ballet of Canada declined comment.
"This is a personal matter for Ms. Lunkina and The National Ballet of Canada is not involved and does not comment on private issues," said Catherine Chang, the Toronto company's senior public relations manager.
The "provocations" have made Ms. Lunkina feel like the victim of a plot wilder than any ballet she has ever performed.
"What is happening to me now has nothing to do with me. It's about my husband," Ms. Lunkina said through an interpreter in an interview in Toronto on Wednesday night.
"I am not involved in any political issues at the theatre and I was never before exposed to any conflicts there."
The dispute has evolved from a $3.7-million lawsuit launched this fall by Mr. Vinokur who alleges that Mr. Moskalev took the money from his foundation while they were briefly partners in a film project about legendary Russian ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, mistress of the last czar.
Mr. Moskalev acknowledges that he is the focus of a criminal investigation in Moscow but denies any wrongdoing: "We are not guilty."
Contacted by an intermediary for an interview, Mr. Vinokur refused to comment.
This week he told the Izvestia daily newspaper that "nobody threatened" the ballerina but that she was "simply the wife of a man who has committed a crime who is hiding out in Canada."