New light cast on the Romanovs' final hours

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EXTRAORDINARY documents detailing one of the 20th century's most infamous murders, the assassination of the Russian Imperial family during the Bolshevik Revolution, were made public yesterday. The documents - many secret for 75 years - give vivid accounts of the end of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, held in Ekaterinburg by Soviet secret police.

On the night of 18 July 1918 the royal family, including children and servants, were taken to a basement and shot and bayoneted to death. Their bodies were drenched in sulphuric acid, then burnt, and the remains dumped in a mine shaft.

The files released yesterday reveal efforts by the Foreign Office and British secret agents to establish what had happened. Documents, often elegantly handwritten, include vivid and sometimes gruesome eye-witness accounts. Letters between Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office reveal the horror of King George V over the fate of his cousin Nicholas.

The documents are part of an exchange between the British and Russian governments. The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, handed them to the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov.