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Protesters lay siege to Bulgarian parliament

BY CHARLOTTE McDONALD-GIBSON

The Bulgarian President appealed for calm yesterday after more than 100 politicians, ministers and staff were forced to spend the night in parliament as demonstrators blocked the exits and repulsed police with stones, marking the first violence in more than 40 days of anti-government protests.

Thousands of Bulgarians angry at what they say is entrenched state corruption and nepotism have been gathering in Sofia each day, and up until this week there had been a peaceful atmosphere among the mostly young people attending the rallies.

But on Tuesday night, several hundred protesters formed a human chain outside the parliament building, trapping 30 politicians, three ministers, and dozens of other parliamentary staff and journalists inside.

Attempts by police to bring in a bus to rescue them failed when protesters pelted it with stones.

Police and demonstrators were injured in the scuffles.

Riot police finally managed to breach the protesters' blockade at about 3am, eight hours after the siege began.

Parliament remained closed and under heavy police guard yesterday, and President Rosen Plevneliev called on protesters to remain "peaceful and civilized" as the political crisis appeared to escalate.

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