October 01, 2008

Russia's last tsar, family members declared victims of repression

15:36 | 01/ 10/ 2008

(Adds Church's comments in last 4 paras)

MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's top court ruled on Wednesday "to exonerate" the country's last tsar and his family, executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, as victims of political repression.

The Supreme Court's appeals panel thereby upheld an appeal from Grand Duchess Maria, who heads the Russian Imperial House in exile.

The Romanovs' descendants had for years insisted that Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and their four daughters and son be classified as the victims of an unlawful state-sponsored execution.

Russian prosecutors and lower courts had repeatedly turned down their appeals, saying the Romanovs had never faced any formal charges before being shot dead in a basement of a merchant's house in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

Speaking after the court session, the lawyer acting for the Imperial House, German Lukyanov said: "We wanted Russia's image to be that of a state governed by the rule of law, and Russia to demonstrate that it condemns its bloody past and has embarked on a new path of development."

The remains of Nicholas II were reburied with honors in 1998 in the former imperial capital, St. Petersburg. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized him, his wife and four daughters and son two years later.

Church officials welcomed the court decision later on Wednesday.

Vladimir Vigilyansky, head of the Moscow Patriarchy's press service, said the Church "welcomes the correction of injustice toward any person, especially the canonized royal family," but said the decision remained legally contradictory.

He said the authorities had acknowledged that the execution of the Romanovs was a crime, and at the same time exonerated the victims. "This is like rehabilitating victims of street hooliganism," the priest said.

Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the Patriarchy's external relations department, thanked the court for the ruling, saying uncertainly over the issue "had been a heavy burden on the nation's conscience."

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