Kendall was educated at Perse School for Girls, Cambridge. She read modern languages at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, spending two years in Russia on British Council scholarships in 1977 and 1982. Her postgraduate Soviet studies took her from St Antony's College, Oxford to Harvard University, where she spent two years as a Harkness Fellow in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
She was in Moscow to witness the power struggles in the Soviet Communist party as Mikhail Gorbachev tried to introduce reform, reported on the break-up of the Soviet Union and the internal conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia and Tadjikistan. She sent reports of the coup in August 1991 and covered Boris Yeltsin's rise to power.
Kendall has interviewed world leaders including Vladimir Putin live from the Kremlin as part of an internet webcast in March 2001. Later in 2001 she interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan for the BBC and hosted a similar event in Moscow with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 2002.
She was the first woman to win the James Cameron Award for journalism in 1992 for reports on events in the former Soviet Union. Later that year, she won a Bbonze Sony Radio Award for Reporter of the Year and was made an MBE in the 1994 New Year's Honours list.
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