Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Director Robbed in Theater Threat

The director of one of Russia's best-known theaters was beaten, robbed and threatened on the weekend by four unidentified assailants, who pushed their way into his apartment and knocked him to the floor.

Leonid Kheifets, chief director of the Russian Army Theater, said by phone that he went to answer the doorbell at about 7.30 A.M. Friday. When he opened the door four men rushed inside and attacked him.

One of the attackers seized him by the throat, choking him and then knocked him down. The others locked his 86-year-old mother in a bathroom, before ransacking the apartment and taking $3,000.

A report of the attack in Moskovsky Komsomolets, which Kheifets described as "wholly accurate," said a neighbor called the police but the attackers managed to escape by the time they appeared. Kheifets was not hospitalized.

His attackers gave no hint of who they were, but one of them demanded $33,000 which he said Kheifets owed to Alexei Kuznetsov, an actor from the Russian Army Theater who committed suicide on Sept. 25.

Later the same day, Kheifets received a telephone call, warning him to stay away from the theater and demanding more money.

In a short telephone conversation Monday he declined to comment on the incident but said that his friends had started to guard him at home.

Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that the Defense Ministry -- which owns the theater -- had carried out negotiations behind the chief director's back to lease the theater to the commercial company Yamal.

The newspaper said Kheifets had been opposed to the deal.

Ivan Skrylnik, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said seven leading actors, including the famous Russian actress Lyudmila Kasatkina, had worked out a scheme to rent out the theater.

"They wanted to lease the premises to Yamal to stage commercial shows once or twice a week," he said. "For its part, the company promised to cover all expenses and repair the building."

Skrylnik said Kheifets had at first supported the idea but then changed his mind after returning from his summer vacation to find the actors had already worked out the scheme and written to Defence Minister Pavel Grachev for his approval.