Thousands of Russian religious pilgrims have walked in an overnight procession in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to mark the 100th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
Russia’s last tsar, his wife, and five children were executed by Bolshevik soldiers in Yekaterinburg 18 months after Nicholas abdicated the throne during the 1917 revolution.
The centennial procession started out late on July 16 from Yekaterinburg’s Church on the Blood, which was built on the site of the executions.
The march, which was led by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, ended in the early hours of July 17 at the place where the bodies of the tsar and his family had been dumped about 21 kilometers away.
Kirill also led a religious service on July 17 where the bodies of the Russian royal family had been discarded. Similar prayer services were being held on July 17 in Moscow and other Russian cities.
PHOTO GALLERY: Thousands marched to commemorate the killing of Russia's royal family by Bolshevik revolutionaries exactly (CLICK TO VIEW).
Celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the killings came just hours after Russian investigators announced that fresh genetic tests on the bones of Russia's last tsar and his family confirmed their authenticity.
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.
PHOTO GALLERY: Before The Murders: Rare Photographs Of Russia's Last Royal Family (CLICK TO VIEW)
The church, meanwhile, praised the investigation and said it would consider the findings.
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.