Grand Duchess Maria Ask's Russia
to Reopen Criminal Case on Tsar's Murder

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

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The self-proclaimed heir to Russia's imperial throne asked prosecutors on Friday to re-open an investigation into the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who were shot dead by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's main investigative unit said it had formally closed a criminal investigation into the killing of Nicholas II because too much time had elapsed since the crime and because those responsible had died.

But monarchists said a resumption of the criminal case is essential if Russia is finally to come to terms with its brutal past, years after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

"This case is essential for Russia," said Alexander Zakatov, who represents Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a Romanov who styles herself as the heir to the imperial throne.

"Russians need to know about the fate of the tsarist family and all of the other victims of the Communist regime. There should be a clear legal verdict on this," said Zakatov, who heads the chancellery of Russia's so-called Imperial House.

He said lawyers for Maria Vladimirovna had asked Moscow's Basmanny court to force prosecutors to reopen the case, which he said was needed to resolve a host of questions about the murder and remains said to belong to the last tsar.

Nicholas II, his wife and five children were killed by a revolutionary firing squad on the night of July 16-17, 1918 in the cellar of a merchant's house in Yekaterinburg, a city 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow.

They were recognised by Russia's Supreme Court as victims of Bolshevik repression in 2008, a step Zakatov said the Russian Prosecutor General had ignored in official documents.

Remains believed to belong to the tsar and his family were exhumed in 1991 and reburied in 1998 in the imperial crypt of the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg.

But the Russian Orthodox Church says it is still unclear whether the remains are in fact those of the last tsar and his family, a view supported by many members of the Romanov family.

"The Russian Orthodox Church and the Imperial House have so far not found enough evidence to recognise those remains as those of the Tsarist family," Zakatov said.

The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for 300 years before Nicholas II abdicated in 1917, setting Russia on course for the Bolshevik Revolution, civil war and 70 years of Communist rule.

In Soviet times, Nicholas II was lampooned by the authorities as a weak and cruel ruler, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union Nicholas has become much more popular as a symbol of Russia's imperial glory.

Before being sworn in as Russian president in May 2008, Dmitry Medvedev said he admired Nicholas II, who, along with his family, was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

Reuters (Moscow)
15 January, 2010