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DNA PROBE SOLVES MYSTERY: BONES ARE OF CZAR NICHOLAS II

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American and Russian experts said Thursday they've resolved the last shred of doubt: A DNA test "unambiguously confirms" that bones unearthed from a mass grave in Russia in 1991 are those of Nicholas II, last of the czars of all the Russians.

If the evidence is accepted in Russia, Nicholas, murdered in a cellar with his family and servants by the revolutionary Bolsheviks one bloody night in 1918, can be given the ceremonial burial that was held up while the investigation was conducted."The riddle of Czar Nicholas II's mysterious remains has been solved," a DNA team from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology announced, reporting the results of a three-month investigation conducted with Russian DNA expert Pavel Ivanov.

But the investigation did not address a more commonly asked question, the subject of legend for more than 75 years: What about Princess Anastasia? Some have always claimed that a bullet-deflecting, diamond-encrusted corset allowed the czar's youngest daughter to escape the Bolshevik gunfire and that she lived abroad in splendid anonymity.

In 1993, British experts announced that the nine skeletons buried outside the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg belonged to Nicholas, the Czarina Alexandra, and three of their five children, as well as their doctor, valet, cook and maid.

But they couldn't specifically identify the daughters, giving new energy to the Anastasia-lived rumors.

Last year, however, a Russian government commission claimed "definite proof" that one of the skeletons was Anastasia's. The panel said what was left unresolved were the fates of Anastasia's sickly brother, Alexei, and sister, Maria.

The new tests dealt with another issue. They sought to remove a final shred of doubt about the pit skeleton thought to be that of Nicholas.

Tests were conducted on the remains of his younger brother, George Romanov, exhumed last year from the royal crypt in the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on orders of the Russian government's Commission for Identifying the Remains of the Royal Family. George's DNA was compared with DNA taken from the Yekaterinburg mass grave.