Bulgarian police on Wednesday broke up a blockade of Parliament and escorted out more than 100 lawmakers and ministers who had been trapped inside the besieged building for more than eight hours by anti-government protesters seeking to oust the left-leaning government.
Police in riot gear pushed away the protesters and formed a corridor to allow those trapped since Tuesday out of the building.
Anti-government protests in Bulgaria's capital have been going on for 40 days, and escalated on Tuesday evening as several hundred demonstrators trapped 109 people — including three ministers, some 30 lawmakers and their staff — inside Parliament.
Police had tried to escort the officials out by bus on Tuesday, but protesters blocked the vehicle hurling stones at it. 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 controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as head of the national security agency sparked this wave of protests. 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.
President Rosen Plevneliev issued a statement calling on 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. He also called on the police to help keep the protest peaceful.