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Archeologists Claim Discovery of Remains of Russia's Last Royal Heir


Human bones found near the city of Yekaterinburg are undergoing forensic examination to see if they are the remains of the son of Russia's last czar. If confirmed, the archaeological find could help answer questions about the fate of Russia's last royal family, the Romanovs. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports.

Russian Archeologists say they have discovered bones near the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, which could be those of 13-year-old Prince Alexei, the son of the last Russian Czar, Nicholas II. Intermingled with Alexei's bones are said to be those of his sister, Princess Maria.

Dmitry Ryazhev, senior researcher in the Urals branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, describes the discovery.

Ryazhev says bullets were found in very close proximity to the bones. The archeologist adds that confirmation is needed to learn if the bullets were lodged in what was once soft tissue.

Confirmation will also be needed to positively determine the identity of the remains.

Nicholas II abdicated in 1917, and he and his family were detained and sent to Yekaterinburg. They were shot in 1918 by Communist guards in the city.

The location of the find announced on Friday appears to coincide with a written account by one of the executioners, Yakov Yurovsky, who is now dead. His notes indicated that most of the royal bodies were soaked in acid and thrown down a mineshaft. According to Yurovsky, two victims, presumably those of the heir and his sister, were burned and buried nearby. Archaeologists say the newly discovered bones show burn marks. Scientists also claim to have found ceramic pieces with traces of sulfuric acid.

A representative of the Romanov family, Ivan Artseshchevsky, told Russia's NTV television network that the findings must be treated cautiously.

Some bones believed to belong to the royals were exhumed in 1991, but there is some doubt that those remains belong to the Czar and members of his family.

Among the doubters is the Russian Orthodox Church. Church spokesman, Bishop Mark Yegoryevsky, told VOA that Russia has often sensationalized news about the czar.

The bishop says there have been suggestions and legends that some family members survived, and there were also people who claimed to have been the czar's children. For this reason, the church official says the current finding should be treated carefully and with suspicion.

Russian prosecutors said Friday they would reopen their investigation into circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Russian royals.

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