Kelowna hockey player worries about her teammates in Kazakhstan civil unrest

Breanna Berndsen plays for the Kazakhstan women’s hockey team

A Kelowna local and member of the Kazakhstan hockey team is “hoping for a peaceful resolution to the civic unrest” over high fuel costs that has recently turned violent.

Breanna Berndsen splits her time between Kazakhstan and Kelowna and returned back to Canada recently before riots and protests began.

Canadian members of the Kazakstan national hockey team (@kalista.senger)

Canadian members of the Kazakstan national hockey team (@kalista.senger)

“The Kazakhstan girls and coaching staff are all still in Almaty,” says Berndsen. “They say they are safe and staying inside their apartments.”

One of her teammates still in Almaty recorded a video of the protests from her apartment window where gunshots and bombs are audible in the distance.

Berndsen worries for her teammates in Kazakhstan, and while they are all currently safe she reports that communication has been difficult because the Kazakhstan people have been periodically cut off from the internet and television.

Security forces killed dozens of protesters and 2000 people have been arrested according to the Kazakhstan Interior Ministry. 12 police have died with 353 more officers injured during violent demonstrations. Government buildings have been stormed and set ablaze, said police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek.

The Canadian women on the Kazakhstan national team are scheduled to return to training in Almaty on Jan. 30 but Berndsen thinks that is likely to change since the airports in Almaty have been shut down after being taken over by protesters.

Canadian members of the Kazakstan national hockey team (@kalista.senger)

Canadian members of the Kazakstan national hockey team (@kalista.senger)

Tens of thousands of people, some reportedly carrying clubs and shields, have taken to the streets in recent days in the worst protests the country has seen since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago.

The demonstrations began over high fuel costs but their size and rapid spread suggest they reflect wider discontent in the country that has been under the rule of the same party since independence.

President Tokayev has imposed a two-week state of emergency for the whole country, including an overnight curfew and a ban on religious services.

READ MORE: Kelowna officials warn against anti-COVID protests ahead of planned ‘mega rally’


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