Riot police free more than 100 MPs and ministers blockaded for more than eight hours as anti-government protests grow
© EPABulgarian protesters clash with riot police during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Police in Bulgaria have broken up a blockade of parliament by anti-government protesters to escort out more than 100 MPs and ministers who had been trapped inside the building for more than eight hours.
Police in riot gear pushed away the protesters early on Wednesday and formed a corridor to allow those trapped out of the building.
Protests in Bulgaria's capital, which have been continuing for 40 days, escalated on Tuesday evening when several hundred demonstrators trapped the officials inside parliament in a bid to oust the left-leaning government.
Police had tried to escort the officials out by a bus on Tuesday, but protesters blocked the vehicle and hurled stones. Seven protesters and two police officers were treated in hospital for head wounds.
The Socialist-backed government took office after early elections in May, following the resignation of the previous cabinet amid anti-austerity protests. The government commands only 120 seats in the 240-seat Parliament and has to rely on the support from a nationalist party.
The appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as head of the national security agency sparked the most recent wave of protests. The appointment was immediately revoked but demonstrators insist the government is corrupt and must resign.
Recent public-opinion polls show the protests are supported by about two-thirds of Bulgaria's 7.3m people, who have the lowest incomes in the European Union.
The Bulgarian president, Rosen Plevneliev, issued a statement calling on the protesters to keep the demonstrations "peaceful and civilised."
"For the first time since the start of the protests we have now witnessed tension and attempts for provocation," Plevneliev said, urging the protesters to restrain from any acts which increased the tension and breach public order. He also called on the police to help keep the protest peaceful.