The Romanovs in 1914: From left: Olga, Maria, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei and Tatiana

Russian investigators have exhumed the remains of the last Tsar and his wife, as they re-examine their 1918 murders. Samples were taken from Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and from the bloodstained uniform of Alexander II, Nicholas’s grandfather, killed in 1881.

The Romanov family members, who were killed by revolutionary Bolsheviks, are buried at a St. Petersburg cathedral. The Orthodox Church wants the remains re-checked to confirm links to other relatives whose remains are elsewhere.

The long-running murder case had been closed in 1998, after DNA tests authenticated the Romanov remains found in a mass grave in the Urals in 1991.

Tsar Nicholas II, Alexandra, their four daughters – grand duchesses Anastasia, Maria, Olga and Tatiana – their son the Tsarevich Alexei and four royal staff members were murdered in the cellar of a house in Yekaterinburg in 1918.

One night they were lined up as if for a family photo, and then a Bolshevik firing squad killed them in a hail of bullets, according to witness accounts. Those who did not die immediately were bayoneted.

The DNA tests did not convince some Russian Orthodox Church members, because the remains of two – Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria – were found only in 2007, at a different spot in the Urals. The Investigative Committee, a state body, says new checks are needed in order to authenticate the remains of those two.

Russia plans to rebury Alexei and Maria alongside the rest of the family in St. Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Cathedral. But for that to happen the Church wants to be certain about the remains. (BBC)