Fresh genetic tests on the bones of Russia's last tsar and his family have confirmed their authenticity, Russian investigators announced on the eve of the 100th anniversary of their executions.
Russia's Investigative Committee, which looks into serious crimes, announced on July 16 that the tests ordered by the Russian Orthodox Church "confirmed the remains found belonged to the former Emperor Nicholas II, his family members, and members of their entourage."
Investigators noted that the body of Nicholas's father, Alexander III, had been exhumed in order to prove "they are father and son."
The results could be a step toward the Russian Orthodox Church finally recognizing the bones and burying them with full rites.
The church, meanwhile, praised the investigation and said it would consider the findings.
Special events and religious ceremonies are being held in Russian towns and cities late on July 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the executions, which occurred in Yekaterinburg shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918.
Patriarch Kirill will lead a collective prayer at midnight in Yekaterinburg.
Similar prayers will be held in Moscow and other Russian cities.
After that, a traditional Orthodox Christian cross procession will be organized in Yekaterinburg, Moscow, and other cities.
Russian media reports say commemorative events will continue on July 17 and 18.
The Russian Orthodox Church in 2000 canonized Nicholas, Tsarina Aleksandra, and their five children -- Crown Prince Aleksei, and Grand Princesses Olga, Tatyana, Maria, and Anastasia.
Each year since then, a procession honoring the royal family has been held in Yekaterinburg on July 17.
A majority of Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but surveys show that only a small fraction attend church regularly.