THE Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director has left hospital saying he knew who was behind the acid attack that threatens his sight and the reputation of one of the world's great theatres.

Sergei Filin, his face scarred and eyes hidden by dark glasses, hinted yesterday last month's attack was linked to his work in the fiercely competitive world of ballet.

He said his attacker had looked at him from behind a mask "with fear in his eyes".

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He said: "I fell on my face in the snow and began to rub the snow in my face and eyes. I was in terrible, unbearable pain."

He said he lay in the empty street in front of his home for 20 minutes, pressing his face into the snow until he caught a security guard's attention.

He spoke briefly before stepping into an ambulance, his wife Maria clutching his arm. He was due to fly to a German clinic.

Mr Filin said the attack was the culmination of weeks of threats and was meant to end his career.

He said his sight could be better but he could still see "fuzzy" objects.

Asked if he knew who had ordered the attack, he said: "Every person has an organ called a heart, and my heart knows who did it, and in my soul I have an answer to that question.

"I have forgiven each and everyone who participated in the act.

"I feel well, I'd even say great, if only my eyes could see a bit better."

Rivalries in the theatre have often in the past led to personal battles between artists and have contributed to the ballet going through five artistic directors since 1995.

Mr Filin has already had five operations in Moscow, and Russia's top ophthalmologist Vladimir Neroyev said rehabilitation of Mr Filin's eyesight could take months and may involve more operations in Germany.

He said he had been in almost daily contact with acting artistic director Galina Stepanenko.

Mr Filin said: "The theatre is in good hands."