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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Panel Says Bury Tsar On July 17

A special government commission decided Friday to recommend that the remains of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family be buried in St. Petersburg on July 17, 80 years after the royal family was killed by a Bolshevik firing squad.

The long-awaited report verifying the remains as those of the tsar and his family now goes to President Boris Yeltsin, who will make the final decision.

Sergei Krasavchenko, a Yeltsin aide and a member of the commission, said he is sure Yeltsin will approve the commission's recommendation.

"It is possible to officially state today that the remains found in Yekaterinburg in the early 1990s are in fact the remains of Tsar Nicholas II, members of his family and their retinue," said First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who chaired the commission.

Only four of the 23-member commission voted to recommend burying the remains in Ural mountains city of Yekaterinburg, where the royal family was shot and where their remains were unearthed in 1991. Moscow received one vote.

Descendants of the royal family have long said they preferred that the remains be laid to rest with their forebears in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

The highly controversial issue of identification and burial of the remains has haunted the Russian government, the Orthodox Church and the media for more than four years.

The reburial of the remains of the last of the Romanov dynasty is widely viewed as an act of national repentance for the killing that accompanied the Bolshevik Revolution and a way to reconnect Russia to its past.

Even today, many Russians remain unconvinced that the remains are those of the tsar and his family, despite conclusive forensic analysis including DNA testing.

Yekaterinburg regional governor Eduard Rossel, a member of the commission, fought a bitter struggle against Russia's central authorities in an effort to inter the remains in the city where they died.

Nemtsov said 13 members of the panel recommended July 17 as the burial date. The other main date proposed was Forgiveness Sunday, an Orthodox Christian penance day, which falls this year on March 1.

Nemtsov said the "overwhelming majority" on the panel believed that the royal family and their attendants, who were gunned down with them in Yekaterinburg, should be buried together.Yeltsin will receive the official report next week, and a decision is expected shortly afterward.

Krasavchenko said the commission decided on the July 17 date instead of March 1 to allow time for preparations in St. Petersburg and to invite foreign dignitaries.

Romanov descendants and members of European royal families are expected to attend the burial.

Moscow geneticist Yevgeny Rogayev reported Friday on the additional DNA tests he completed last Sunday, in which he compared Nicholas' thigh bone to blood samples of the tsar's late nephew Tikhon Kulikovsky provided by Kulikovsky's widow, Olga. He died two years ago.

Vladimir Solovyov of the federal Prosecutor's Office, who was in charge of the investigation, and chief forensics examiner Vitaly Tomilin gave formal reports to the commission at its two-hour meeting Friday.

"Even the most doubtful members of the commission" did not question the results of the tests, Nemtsov said.

The commission nearly reached similar conclusions the summer of 1995, but the Russian Orthodox Church insisted that further research was necessary.

Church leaders say they must be 100 percent sure of the authenticity of the remains because the church is considering canonization of Nicholas and his family as saints. In that case, the royal remains would become holy relics.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet Feb. 22-23 to discuss the church's official position on the remains and the proposed burial.

Commission members said Metropolitan Yuvenaly, who represents the church on the panel, said it was difficult not to accept the scientific evidence. But he added that science is an open-ended quest and that different conclusions could be reached in the future.

Rogayev, a molecular geneticist from the Academy of Medical Sciences, said that he had only three weeks in January to conduct the same tests which took another geneticist, Pavel Ivanov, months in laboratories in Great Britain and United States.

Rogayev said that DNA from Nicholas' remains matched DNA extracted from Kulikovsky's blood, and that he found the same mutation that was discovered during earlier tests in the United States.

Kulikovsky's widow, Olga, an outspoken critic of the commission's earlier findings, said in December that she trusted Rogayev and insisted that he conduct more tests himself.The latest tests were intended to convince Russian monarchists and conservative Orthodox Christians abroad and in Russia that the remains are authentic. These groups have been deeply mistrustful of the official findings and prompted the church to withhold its support from the commission's findings in 1995.

It is unlikely that many doubters will ever be convinced the remains are authentic.

A rival commission of emigres called the Russian Expert Commission Abroad is "disappointed" in Friday's announcement in Moscow, said the commission's chairman, Peter Koltypin-Vallovskoy, in a telephone interview from Connecticut.

"We disagree and hope that perhaps in the nearest days there will appear people who will lead president to another decision," Koltypin-Vallovskoy said.

Governor Rossel also did not seem ready to give up the fight to see the remains buried in Yekaterinburg. He did not attend the Friday session.

On Thursday, Rossel said a local scientist in Yekaterinburg had found the still-missing remains of the tsar's heir, Tsarevich Alexei, and his sister. He refused to provide any details.

Nemtsov said Friday that if the remains of Alexei were found, the commission would be back in session.

"The probability is infinitely small, but we cannot completely exclude it," Nemtsov said.