YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Scientific tests have confirmed that remains found in Russia last year belong to the last Tsar’s male heir and his daughter, missing since the royal family were executed in 1918, officials said on Wednesday.
Testing on DNA samples carried out in a U.S. laboratory proved the remains were those of Tsar Nicholas II’s 13-year-old heir Prince Alexei and daughter Maria, said Eduard Rossel, governor of the Sverdlovsk region where the family were killed.
“We received full confirmation that they (the remains) do belong to the Tsar’s children,” Rossel said in comments broadcast by Russia’s NTV television station.
“So we have found the whole family,” he said, adding the tests were conducted in a U.S. genetic science laboratory.
Bolshevik executioners shot the family in 1918 in the basement of a merchant’s house in Yekaterinburg, 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow. Attempts were made to destroy the bodies, then they were dumped into pits.
Following the collapse of Communist rule, remains believed to belong to the Tsar, his wife and three of his daughters were exhumed. They were reburied in 1998 in the imperial crypt of the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg.
But Prince Alexei Nikolayevich, who suffered from haemophilia, and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, who was 19 at the time of her death, were not among those remains.
Scientists, prosecutors and amateur historians had mounted a huge operation to find them, while some speculated they might have survived and lived on for years under new identities.
Then last year officials said they had found 44 bone fragments belonging to two young people, aged about 14 and 20, close to the site where other members of the royal family had been buried.
A spokesman for the Sverdlovsk regional administration said further investigations were planned to eliminate any doubt about the identity of the remains.
“This testing is not final. Once these remains have been examined in the United States, they will be taken to (a laboratory in) Austria,” said the spokesman.
Scientists who conducted tests on the remains buried in the Imperial crypt said they were those of the Tsar, his wife and three daughters. But Patriarch Alexiy II, head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, has never fully accepted their authenticity.
A representative for Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the self-declared heir to Russia’s imperial throne, told Reuters she would not make a judgment on the authenticity of the new remains until the church made its position clear.
Orthodox clerics in Yekaterinburg said on Tuesday they were not ready to make a decision on the remains.
“The position of the head of ... Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, is that the last word must be with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Alexander Zakatov, head of the chancellery of Russia’s self-styled Imperial House.
“Taking into account the situation with the previous remains, over which there unfortunately remains doubt about their authenticity, it is essential to be very careful so that the results are understandable to the whole of society.
Bullets were found close to the bone fragments of the two bodies found last year, suggesting they had been shot.
Since the Russian royal family were executed theories abounded that some of them may have escaped execution. Several women emerged in the 20th century claiming to be the Tsar’s daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolayevna.
Reporting by Tatiana Ustinova and Guy Faulconbridge; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Richard Balmforth