Richard Pendlebury

Daily Mail, MailPlus and MailOnline

Richard Pendlebury sent his first gripping report from Ukraine during the first 24 hours of the conflict and he has made regular trips to cover the war there ever since.

Access to the frontline is strictly rationed by the authorities in Kyiv but Pendlebury has earned the trust of key contacts through his bravery and commitment to their cause. As a result, he and photographer Jamie Wiseman were given unprecedented opportunities to produce a compelling series of brilliant dispatches. Their informative, insightful and beautifully written report from the battle for Bakhmut, the little hilltop salt-mining town that was the scene of some of the most bitter fighting of the war so far, put readers into the ‘mud-bath hamlets’ and among the ‘heart-stopping crack of artillery fire’. He described the ‘terrible, drawn-out howl’ of a multiple launch rocket system and the ‘drone of aviation across the field’, but Pendlebury never loses sight of the small, telling details, such as the small boy who ‘nods politely at us as we go by’. A figure approaching his convoy is dismissed by a soldier as a ‘crazy guy who won’t leave’, but Pendlebury finds in the heart of this shambling pensioner, the patriotism that powers Ukraine’s resistance. ‘When the shells fall,’ the old man explains to Pendlebury, ‘the soldiers yell at me to lie down but I don’t give a f***, you know what I mean? I’m from Donbas. Donbas will never bend the knee! And Ukraine will never bend a knee! Remember that. We are free.’ And off he staggers. In his second piece Pendlebury gives a terrifying account of standing on the edge of a wood near the Donetsk town of Lyman at 3am ‘hardly daring to breathe’ as a drone buzzes overhead making a noise ‘not unlike that of a distant strimmer’. ‘Do not move, do not speak,’ Sergeant Oleh Leheza whispers to Pendlebury. ‘It’s almost directly overhead.’ When it’s time to leave the frontline, Pendlebury and Wiseman face the prospect of a nerve-shredding run to the pick-up truck that will drive them to safety. The ‘unmistakeable whine of an approaching shell’ has them on their hands and knees in the mud as it explodes a stone’s throw away. Once they reach the pick-up ‘Oleh drives like a madman,’ write Pendlebury. ‘Mortar bombs are landing close enough for us to hear them above the screaming of the engine.’ For his third piece, Pendlebury interviews soldiers who explain why the humble shovel is their best friend, for the deeper they dig the more protected they are. Digging trenches is a laborious task ‘but worst of all is when you’re right in the frontline under direct fire and you have to dig lying down while watching the enemy attack,’ says specialist sniper Maxym. Pendlebury produced short videos to accompany his reports and these have been viewed four million times in three months, showing the appetite for his intrepid first-hand pieces that always come from the heart of the action.