Police escorted more than 100 politicians and journalists out of Bulgaria’s parliament in the capital, Sofia, early on Wednesday morning after the building had been besieged for eight hours by anti-corruption protesters.
The lawmakers – who included three ministers – found themselves trapped on Tuesday evening during a debate to increase the Bulgarian government’s budget deficit.
One attempt to get deputies out of the parliament in a bus led to a scuffle with police. It was abandoned after protesters threw bottles, stones and other objects at the bus.
“They threw stones… at the bus and they call it a peaceful protest,” Bulgarian Socialist party deputy Anton Kutev, who was trapped inside parliament, told Bulgarian state TV.
On Wednesday morning, large piles of debris left by protesters’ barricades were visible outside the Alexander Nevsky cathedral next to the Bulgarian parliament.
Sofia has been hit by anti-government protests for the last 40 days. The unrest was sparked by a decision by Bulgaria’s coalition government to appoint Delyan Peevski, a 32-year-old businessman, as head of the State Agency for National Security.
Mr Peevski, who resigned one day after his appointment on 14 June, has significant communications interests in the country. His mother, Irena Krusteva, has links with a wide range of media companies and was once head of Bulgaria’s national lottery.
The appointment outraged protesters, who saw it as another example of corruption in a country whose 2007 accession to EU membership was dependent on it meeting tough entry requirements about organised crime.
Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU. The prospect of relaxed rules on immigration to the UK in 2014 has prompted concern in some quarters that it would mean a wave of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants.