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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bone Fragments Likely Tsar's Children

There is a "high degree of probability" that bone fragments found recently near Yekaterinburg are those of a daughter and son of the last tsar, forensics experts said Friday.

If confirmed, the find would fill in a missing chapter in the story of the doomed Romanovs, who were killed after the Bolshevik Revolution ushered in more than 70 years of Communist rule.

The fragments were found by archaeologists in a burned field near the Ural Mountains city where Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were held prisoner by the Bolsheviks and then shot in 1918. The discovery was announced in August.

"Investigators have made a preliminary conclusion that there is a high degree of probability that the bones ... belong to the Crown Prince Alexei and Princess Maria," said Vladimir Gromov, deputy forensic chief in the Sverdlovsk region, in televised remarks. "I want to emphasize, though, that this conclusion has a deeply preliminary character."

Alexei, who was 13 when he died, was the heir to the throne.

Federal forensic investigator Vladimir Solovyev said that conclusions were based on "anthropological and dental" tests, and he warned that the genetic tests to be done in the future would be difficult since the fragments were burned and badly damaged.

NTV television said in August that, along with the remains, archaeologists found shards of a ceramic container of sulfuric acid as well as nails, metal strips from a wooden box and bullets of various caliber. Prosecutors said they would reopen an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Descendants of the royal family have repeatedly petitioned Russian authorities to declare Nicholas and his family victims of political repression. On Wednesday, the Prosecutor General's Office again denied that request, saying no court or "extra-judicial body" had issued any sort of execution or repression order for the royals.