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Czar Alexander III tomb might have been opened before, says Orthodox Church

November 13, 2015, 15:57 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Investigators have found chip marks spotting corners of the tomb and that the tombstone plate had shifted

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Bust of Czar Alexander III

Bust of Czar Alexander III

© Artiom Korotaev/TASS

MOSCOW, November 13. /TASS/. The tomb of Russian Czar Alexander III, opened for exhumation on November 3, may have been opened before, a senior bishop told a TASS news conference on Friday.

"We highly suspect it," Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Yegoryevsk told reporters.

The announcement came from the executive secretary of the Patriarchal Council for Culture of the Russian Orthodox Church, telling journalists that investigators have found chip marks spotting corners of the tomb and that the tombstone plate had shifted.

"We don’t assert that the tomb of Alexander III had been opened though we highly suspect it," said the bishop. "We assume one thing - the tombstone over the grave of Alexander III was removed and then installed again." State officials from the Investigative Committee had recorded the fact, the cleric added.

The announcement is backed by Marina Logunova, chief research associate at the St. Petersburg State History Museum. "There is evidence from the 1920s, including publications by Polish newspapers, that the tombs of Peter I and Alexander III had been opened, but there are no official documents confirming this," she told TASS.

Church head Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia asked the government in October to do comparative genetic studies of remains of Czar Nicholas and his father, Alexander III. This follows Investigative Committee resumed criminal proceedings earlier in the autumn into the slaying of members of the Romanov Imperial Family.

The process began in 1993 after a collective burial site was found near Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) in the Urals region. This contained bones supposedly of Nicholas II, his spouse Empress Alexandra and their children.

If identification procedures now under way produce expected results, this will lead to the remains of Crown Prince Alexis and Grand Princess Maria being interred in February 2016.

Remains of murdered Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra were exhumed from their tombs in the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg at the end of September. Alongside, samples of blood traces were taken from clothes Emperor Alexander II was wearing when assassinated in March 1881.

Russia's Orthodox Church believes that positive findings of these forensic studies will deliver incontestable proof of the genuineness of czarist remains and an opportunity for assigning to them the status of holy relics.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced current results of expert examination of the studied remains of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna: They are genuine. According to investigators' spokesman Vladimir Markin "the study will be continued".

Meanwhile, Alexander Zakatov, spokesman for the Romanov Imperial House in Russia, told TASS in an interview that final conclusions about authenticity of the remains of the Russian Imperial family would be premature. "The head of the House of Romanov, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, welcomed resumption of the investigation and the fact that the state has accommodated the Russian Orthodox Church request," said Zakatov.

"However, the remains of Emperor Alexander III [the father of Nicholas II] have not been studied yet. The facts made public today are just interim results of the investigation, a comparison with certain remained samples," he added. "So far these results are consistent with the version that the Yekaterinburg remains may belong to the Imperial family. It’s premature to speak of a final decision yet. There are doubts, there are questions - all these questions, both genetic and historical ones, require an answer.".

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