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Students try to blockade Bulgaria's parliament, five detained

Protesters try to block a police vehicle during a demonstration near the parliament in central Sofia November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Protesters try to block a police vehicle during a demonstration near the parliament in central Sofia November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bulgarian students tried to blockade lawmakers inside parliament on Tuesday, escalating their street demonstrations against the Socialist-led government.

However, they were unable to break a heavy police cordon around the building despite throwing objects at the officers. Five protesters were detained after scuffles with riot police.

The protest was organized by students who have chained shut the doors of the Balkan country's biggest university since Monday, occupying lecture halls and preventing teaching.

"The university occupation is not enough, the government does not hear us and completely ignores us, so a blockade of parliament may do it," said Stanislav Kastchiyski, a journalism student at the Sofia University told Reuters.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski took office in May after a center-right government was brought down after massive protests over high utility bills. It is under pressure from daily protests alleging corrupt ties with business groups.

"We want to stay in Bulgaria and live with dignity. We know that for this to happen something has to change and this government has to go. It is entangled in all kinds of shadowy interests," Kastchiyski said.

Membership of the European Union since 2007 has brought prosperity to many, but has also encouraged young people to emigrate, leaving behind an ever older and poorer population, while the failure to entrench the strict rule of law and combat graft has deterred badly needed foreign investment.

The students rallied in downtown Sofia on Sunday, the latest protest, including sit-ins at 15 universities across the European Union's poorest member, to call for the cabinet to resign.

According to a poll by the independent Alpha Research, the protests are backed by 60 percent of Bulgarians.

University professors and teachers issued a statement condemning the "lies and 'tycoonization' of the political and social environment".

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alison Williams)

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