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Probe reopens into last tsar's death

world Updated: Aug 26, 2007 14:53 IST
IANS
Russia reopens investigation

Russia's prosecutors have reopened investigations into the execution of the Romanov family following the alleged discovery of the remains of Tsar Nicholas's II son and daughter in the Urals region in late July.

The remains of a boy and a young woman were exhumed near the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, where Russia's last tsar, his wife, their four daughters and son, and several servants were shot by Bolsheviks in 1918. Archaeologists said the site had been spotted after declassifying archival documents recently.

The region's chief forensic expert, Nikolai Nevolin, said at a news conference on Friday that the remains, believed to be those of the tsar's son and heir, Alexei, and daughter Maria, were handed over for examination on August 17, and the top prosecutor's office reopened the 1993 case on August 21. The remains included 44 bone fragments, tooth fragments, as well as strips of fabric and bullets.

"(The bone fragments) will allow identification of the gender and the relationship of the bodies," Nevolin said.

He said the genetic analysis would also reveal whether the boy suffered from haemophilia, a rare hereditary blood disorder that afflicted Prince Alexei. He said the examination could take two months.

Scientists discovered the place after studying written evidence by Yakov Yurovsky, who led the firing squad. He said the prince and one of the princesses had been burnt and buried in a place away from the other nine bodies of the murdered Romanovs and their aides in a bid to cover up the scene.

Parts of the bodies were exhumed in 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up. They were authenticated by experts from Russia, Britain, and the US and buried in St Peter and Paul's Cathedral in St Petersburg in 1998, and the investigation was dropped.

But in 2004, the forensic examination results were challenged and flaws in DNA studies, discrepancies between the findings and historical facts and breaches in forensic procedures were reported.

A lawyer representing the Romanovs, German Lukyanov, said on Friday it was premature to say that the discovered remains were those of members of the Romanov family.

A spokesman for the Romanov family said descendants were prepared to aid the identification process, but warned against rushing to conclusions, which was the case in 1998.

The Romanov family and the Russian Orthodox Church have questioned the authenticity of the remains buried in St Petersburg.

"If there are sufficient grounds to believe that the discovery is the remains of Prince Alexei and Princess Maria, if a more detailed examination than that conducted in the 1990s, can be carried out, we are certainly prepared to cooperate with the Prosecutor General's Office and any other state and public institution," said Alexander Zakatov.

Russia's Orthodox Church, which has canonized the murdered Romanov family, said it "is looking forward to the results of the genetic analysis," but declined to make any statements until then.

"We would have rejoiced at gaining the remains of the holy royal martyrs," a church official said, adding that the church would not like to "take part in a political show" similar to the 1998 burial.