SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Police in Bulgaria used force against demonstrators who tried to prevent them from evacuating ministers and lawmakers trapped inside Parliament. Four people were injured.
Anti-government protests in the capital that have been going on for 40 days escalated Tuesday evening as several hundred demonstrators trapped the officials inside Parliament in a bid to oust the left-leaning government.
A bus arrived at Parliament to escort the officials out, but protesters refused to let the vehicle leave, forming a human chain and hurling stones at it.
Demonstrators shouted "Murderers!" as dozens of police in riot gear pushed and clubbed them to clear a path for the bus. After an hour, the vehicle had to return to the building. The people hurt included some with head injuries.
A total of 109 people - including three ministers, some 30 lawmakers, journalists and parliament staff remain trapped inside the building, according to National TV which broadcast the events live. Protesters said they were determined to continue with the blockade of the building until their demands are met.
President Rosen Plevneliev issued a statement calling upon the protesters to keep the demonstrations "peaceful and civilized."
"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. The President also called on the police not to yield to the accumulated pressure and keep the protest peaceful.
"We all live here, this is our country and we are responsible towards it. I urge for calm and order," Plevneliev said.
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 tacit support from a nationalist party.
The appointment of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as head of the national security agency sparked public anger and daily protests since June 14. The appointment was immediately revoked but demonstrators insist the government is corrupt and must resign.
Recent public-opinion polls show they are supported by about two-thirds of Bulgaria's 7.3 million people, who have the lowest incomes in the European Union.