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Russian auditors launch check of Bolshoi

Thursday - 3/21/2013, 11:06am  ET

FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, Dec. 1, 2003, Russian Ballerina Anastasia Volochkova speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Perhaps the most serious blow so far came from the Kremlin-controlled NTV television broadcasting nationwide, where Tsiskaridze and former Bolshoi premier Anastasia Volochkova accused Iksanov of botching the Bolshoi’s reconstruction effort, ruining its repertoire and treating the dancers like slaves. Volochkova even alleged that Iksanov oversaw a practice of ballerinas being used as pleasure escorts for members of the Bolshoi governing board and other powerful figures on management’s orders. She didn’t name any names. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's state audit agency is looking into the Bolshoi, a probe that comes amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption at the famed theater, officials said Thursday.

The Audit Chamber said the investigation into the use of public funds had been planned in advance and isn't linked to the accusations of financial abuse raised by a dancer who was arrested earlier this month on charges of staging an acid attack on the theater's artistic director Sergei Filin.

But the daily Izvestia claimed the auditors were specifically looking at Filin's spending decisions, in particular those concerning the distribution of grants between dancers. And the probe could spell more trouble for the Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, who is in conflict with principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

Iksanov has accused Tsiskaridze of creating an atmosphere of intrigue that set the scene for the attack on Filin. The 39-year old dancer has dismissed the claims and pointed to the attack as evidence that the theater has descended into crime and violence under Iksanov's watch.

On Sunday, in a live talk show on state-controlled NTV television, Tsiskaridze poured scorn on Iksanov, accusing him of mismanaging the Bolshoi's six-year, $1 billion reconstruction, ruining its repertoire and abusing dancers' rights. He ended up by putting a blunt claim to the director's job.

Tsiskaridze was joined by former Bolshoi prima ballerina, Anastasia Volochkova, who accused Iksanov of overseeing a practice of using ballerinas as pleasure escorts for rich tycoons who sit on the theater's governing board and other influential people.

Iksanov has rejected the accusations against him as "dirt and nonsense" and ridiculed Tsiskaridze's aspirations to take his seat.

Both Iksanov and Tsiskaridze are believed to enjoy support from senior government officials and Kremlin-connected business tycoons, but Sunday's show signaled that Tsiskaridze could be gaining the upper hand in the battle.

The Audit Chamber said that the probe is expected to wrap up next month.


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