"At least he didn't suffer."
For almost two and a half months, Iryna Yegorchenko prayed that her son Artyom, one of the Ukrainian soldiers defending the huge Azovstal factory in Mariupol, the last pocket of resistance besieged by Russian forces, would come out unscathed. .
On Wednesday, the news fell like a cleaver: Artiom, 22, is dead.
Devastated, Iryna says she also felt a sense of relief - at least her son won't be captured by the Russians.
Nor will he know the hunger or wounds that many of his comrades suffer.
“Suddenly I felt relieved.
It's easier to know that your son is dead, than that he is in captivity, injured or crying out for hunger, ”explains this 43-year-old woman who lives in kyiv, joined by AFP.
Mariupol, ready to fall into Russian hands
With all civilians now evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant via a UN and Red Cross mission, only the fighters are still present in the plant.
On the surface, the Russians control almost all of this major port on the Sea of Azov.
Artiom, a burly-looking young man who was an avid boxer, had dug into the steelworks in early March.
He will have spent 74 days there with the only means of communication with the outside, Telegram and Instagram.
Artiom always told her he was fine, but was more honest with his friends, she realizes now.
"He wrote to them that their days were numbered, that they would not get out of it," says this psychologist by profession, her voice charged with emotion.
In Mariupol, a hundred civilians evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks
The last time she spoke to him was May 7, after which contact was cut off.
It was not until May 11 that she received the message: her son was crushed to death by the collapse of a concrete block.
“At least he didn't suffer.
Everything happened very quickly, ”she breathes.
“He is with God”.
Calls for help from soldiers trapped in the steelworks
After weeks of fierce battles, soldiers trapped in Azovstal have been sending desperate calls for help on social media.
This week, one of the commanders, Sergiï Volyna described the living conditions inside the factory as “inhumane”.
"Every minute a new life is lost," he said.
“My son is in hell in Azovstal”, launched at a press conference Thursday Yevgen Sukharikov, the father of a fighter from the Azov regiment, saying he feared a “massacre” if the soldiers were not saved.
“Either we take the risk (to save them), or the whole world will watch how they will be killed there”, he pleaded.
Read alsoWar in Ukraine: what would change the capture of Mariupol by the Russians
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that negotiations with Moscow over their evacuation had failed.
“They are only offering to capitulate.
Our guys won't agree to lay down their arms,” she said, hoping to be able to set up an operation to recover the soldiers in the worst shape.