Bulgaria barricades MPs as protests turn violent

By politics.co.uk staff

Turmoil has engulfed the Bulgarian republic, after MPs were barricaded in parliament by angry protesters.

The country's left-leaning government faces a major crisis as thousands of demonstrators challenge its decision to appoint Delyan Peevski, a media magnate to head Bulgaria's national security agency.

It led to several hundred protesters blockading parliamentarians for eight hours yesterday, by tearing up pavement stones and piling up rubbish bins, the Deutsche-Welle news agency reported.

An initial escape attempt was thwarted when stones and bottles were thrown at the bus MPs were travelling in.

Protesters shouted "mafia!" and "resign!" against the MPs, many of whom supported the Socialist-led government.

Other protesters sat in front of the vehicle, forcing parliamentarians back into the building.

"They threw stones … at the bus and they call it a peaceful protest," Bulgarian Socialist party deputy Anton Kutev was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

But the demonstrators have received the backing of the European Union's justice commissioner, Luxembourg's Viviane Reding, who tweeted: "Here in Sofia today, my sympathy is with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption."

MPs and parliament staff, including journalists, were forced to remain in the building until the early hours of this morning, when police finally succeeded in breaking the barricades.

"I appeal to the protesters to keep the protest the way it was and the way it impressed all Europe – peaceful, civilised and aimed at achieving the values of a democratic society," Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev said.

The government has faced protests for the last five weeks, amid anger at corruption and the country's struggling economy.