Louise Callaghan

Sunday Times

Louise Callaghan’s story about Vitaliy Taktashov, a dead Russian soldier whose battered blue notebook she was given on visiting the Zaporizhzia front lines, was a stark reminder of the victims Vladimir Putin has created on both sides of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Taktashov’s diary depicts a traumatised family man, with no military experience nor desire to kill, who just wants to escape his disorganised and negligent commanders and go home to his wife and two-year-old son. 

Taktashov’s story is heart-rending, but Callaghan’s report from the displacement camps of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is almost too visceral to read. Among the thousands of people fleeing the Rwanda-backed M23 rebel group, who routinely commit unspeakable war crimes against civilians, she spoke to a family with a particularly horrifying story. This article from a forgotten war provided a wake-up call about what the Rwandan regime and its proxies are capable of. 

Callaghan spent days in Kherson, under heavy shelling, piecing together the story behind the murder by the Russians of famous Ukrainian conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko for refusing to submit to the new regime.

Callaghan’s original and committed reporting from dangerous hard-to-reach places is distinguished by her “eye for the unexpected and telling human element,” said the judges.