Ruling urged on tsar's 'political death'

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The Independent Online

Descendants of Russia's last tsar, murdered in 1918 by a Bolshevik firing squad, say they will take the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights to force it to class the killing as a political crime.

The campaign for "historical justice" has gained fresh momentum after Russia's general prosecutor refused a request to recognise Nicholas II and his family as "victims of political repression" worthy of rehabilitation. The prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, said there was no documentary evidence of an explicit Bolshevik order to kill the tsar, his wife and children and that the matter was therefore technically an ordinary criminal case.

The tsar stepped down in 1917 as revolution swept Russia and was executed with his family in the basement of a merchant's house in the city of Yekaterinburg the following year. Their purported remains were unearthed in 1991 and laid to rest in St Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress in 1998, when President Boris Yeltsin described the killing as a terrible crime.

Despite Mr Yeltsin's words, and the posthumous canonisation of the family by the Russian Orthodox Church, the legal system has never conceded that a crime was committed. Descendants of the family argue that their famous ancestors are therefore still classed as criminals, and want them rehabilitated in the same way that victims of Joseph Stalin's purges had their reputations restored.

A rehabilitation request was lodged last year by the self-styled Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, 52, who lives in France and Spain. Her late father claimed he was the last legitimate male heir to the Romanov dynasty and Maria Vladimirovna alleges that she would be in line for the Russian throne if it were resurrected.