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Blinken in Kyiv tries to rally sagging Ukrainian spirits as Russia makes new military gains

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Blinken in Kyiv tries to rally sagging Ukrainian spirits as Russia makes new military gains
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Blinken in Kyiv tries to rally sagging Ukrainian spirits as Russia makes new military gains

2024-05-15 06:16 Last Updated At:06:22

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them during a visit to Kyiv that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way after months of political delays will make a “real difference” on the battlefield.

After a day of meetings with senior officials, civil society figures and university students when he exhorted them against being discouraged, Blinken took to the stage at a bar in Ukraine's capital to play rhythm guitar and sing with a local band on Neil Young's 1989 hit “Rockin' in the Free World."

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An apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them during a visit to Kyiv that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way after months of political delays will make a “real difference” on the battlefield.

Police officers inspect part of a Russian missile that fell close to an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

Police officers inspect part of a Russian missile that fell close to an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, leaves the stage after addressing students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, leaves the stage after addressing students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

From left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Tom Sullivan and Spokesperson Matt Miller visit the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

From left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Tom Sullivan and Spokesperson Matt Miller visit the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kyiv, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kyiv, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fourth left, speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, third right, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fourth left, speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, third right, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, watches Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, watches Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, front, waits with Ukrainian Railways staff and others to greet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, front, waits with Ukrainian Railways staff and others to greet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, walks to board a Ukrainian Railways train at Przemysl Glowny train station while traveling to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 13, 2024, from Przemysl, Poland. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, walks to board a Ukrainian Railways train at Przemysl Glowny train station while traveling to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 13, 2024, from Przemysl, Poland. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink after arriving by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski(Photographers name/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink after arriving by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski(Photographers name/Pool Photo via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

The performance, and a series of sunny comments from Blinken about Ukraine’s battlefield prospects, was a startling juxtaposition to what analysts have called one of the most dangerous moments for Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Russian forces have taken swaths of territory along Ukraine’s northeast border, and thousands of civilians in the Kharkiv region have fled the increasingly intense attacks.

But Blinken told Ukrainian leaders during his unannounced visit to Kyiv that despite a lengthy delay in U.S. military aid that left them vulnerable to these renewed Russian military strikes, more weaponry is coming and some has already arrived.

He made the case even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to him personally for more air defense systems to protect civilians under intense Russian fire in the northeast. Blinken, on fourth trip to Kyiv since the war began, also lambasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for underestimating Ukraine's determination to fight back.

“We meet at a critical moment,” he told students at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. “The coming weeks and months will demand a great deal of Ukrainians, who have already sacrificed so much. I’ve come to Ukraine with a message: You are not alone.”

He also pushed back on the notion that time is on Putin’s side.

“Putin has it wrong — time is on Ukraine’s side," Blinken said. "As the war goes on, Russia is going back in time. Ukraine is moving forward.”

But the reality on the ground is that Moscow’s troops have captured about 100 to 125 square kilometers (40 to 50 square miles) in recent days in the northeast Kharkiv region, including at least seven villages, according to open-source monitoring analysts. People had already left most of those villages, but the fighting drove out thousands of others.

Seeking to take advantage of Ukrainian shortages in manpower and weapons while new U.S. assistance is in transit, Russian forces also have been making a concerted push in the east to drive deeper into the partly occupied Donetsk region. The main focus of Russian attacks Tuesday was Pokrovsk, just inside the Ukrainian border in Donetsk, where the Kremlin’s forces launched 24 assaults, the Ukrainian general staff said in a report.

“We know this is a challenging time,” Blinken told Zelenskyy after arriving on an overnight train from Poland. But, he added that U.S. military aid is “going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield.”

Congress approved a long-delayed foreign assistance package last month that sets aside $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, much of which will go toward replenishing badly depleted artillery and air defense systems. Since then, the Biden administration has announced $1.4 billion in short-term military assistance and $6 billion in longer-term support.

Zelenskyy thanked Blinken for the aid but said more is necessary, including two Patriot air defense systems urgently needed to protect Kharkiv.

“The people are under attack: civilians, warriors, everybody. They’re under Russian missiles,” he said.

Artillery, air defense interceptors and long-range ballistic missiles have already been delivered, some of them already to the front lines, said a senior U.S. official traveling with Blinken who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity ahead of Blinken’s meetings.

Moscow’s renewed offensive in Kharkiv is the most significant border incursion since the early days of the war, following months when the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line barely budged.

More than 7,500 civilians have been evacuated from the area, according to authorities. At the same time, the Kremlin’s forces are expanding their push to the northern border regions of Sumy and Chernihiv, Ukrainian officials say, and Kyiv's outgunned and outnumbered soldiers are struggling to hold them back.

Troops fought street to street on the outskirts of Vovchansk, among the largest towns in the Kharkiv area, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on national television. Two civilians were killed in Russian shelling Tuesday, he said.

The U.N. human rights office said the battles are taking a heavy toll.

“We are deeply concerned at the plight of civilians in Ukraine,” Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva. “In the Kharkiv region, the situation is dire.”

Russia in recent weeks also has launched wide attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. The operator of the national high-voltage electricity grid, Ukrenergo, said it was starting “controlled emergency shutdowns” for industries and households because of “a significant shortage of electricity in the system due to Russian shelling and an increase in consumption due to the cold weather.”

Blinken told Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal that the U.S. intends to support Kyiv beyond the war's end.

“The United States is determined, determined to help Ukraine succeed — succeed both in the battlefield victory but also succeed, as we would say, in winning the peace and building the strongest possible Ukraine,” Blinken said.

But delays in U.S. assistance, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war has preoccupied top administration officials, have triggered deep concerns in Kyiv and Europe. Blinken, for example, has visited the Middle East seven times since the war in Gaza began in October. His last trip to Kyiv was in September.

Blinken went with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba for lunch at a Kyiv pizza restaurant founded by Ukrainian veterans, calling it “superb.” On Blinken’s last visit, the pair ate at a recently reopened McDonald’s restaurant.

Blinken and other U.S. officials said despite some recent setbacks, Ukraine could still claim significant victories. Those include reclaiming some 50% of the territory Russian forces took in the early months of the war, boosting its economic standing and improving transportation and trade links, not least through military successes in the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, Putin plans to make a two-day state visit to China this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Beijing has backed Moscow politically in the war and has sent machine tools, electronics and other items seen as contributing to the Russian war effort, without actually exporting weaponry.

Associated Press writers Illia Novikov in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

An apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

An apartment building damaged in the Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

Police officers inspect part of a Russian missile that fell close to an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

Police officers inspect part of a Russian missile that fell close to an apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, leaves the stage after addressing students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, leaves the stage after addressing students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

From left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Tom Sullivan and Spokesperson Matt Miller visit the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

From left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Tom Sullivan and Spokesperson Matt Miller visit the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kyiv, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kyiv, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses students and and professors in Igor Sikorsky Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs "Rockin' in the Free World" with members of The 1999 band at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken sought Tuesday to rally the spirits of glum Ukrainians facing a fierce new Russian offensive, assuring them that they are not alone and that billions of dollars in American military aid on its way to the country would make a “real difference” on the battlefield. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fourth left, speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, third right, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fourth left, speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, third right, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, watches Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, watches Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, greets U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Blinken arrived in Kyiv on Tuesday in an unannounced diplomatic mission to reassure Ukraine that it has American support as it struggles to defend against increasingly intense Russian attacks. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, front, waits with Ukrainian Railways staff and others to greet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, front, waits with Ukrainian Railways staff and others to greet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, arrives by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, walks to board a Ukrainian Railways train at Przemysl Glowny train station while traveling to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 13, 2024, from Przemysl, Poland. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, walks to board a Ukrainian Railways train at Przemysl Glowny train station while traveling to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 13, 2024, from Przemysl, Poland. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink after arriving by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski(Photographers name/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink after arriving by train at Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi station May 14, 2024, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski(Photographers name/Pool Photo via AP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken works while traveling on a Ukraine Railways train to Kiev, Monday, May 13, 2024, near Lviv, Ukraine. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump takes the stage Thursday at the Republican National Convention to accept his party's nomination again and give his first speech since he was cut off mid-sentence by a flurry of gunfire in an assassination attempt at a rally in Pennsylvania.

Trump's address will conclude the four-day convention in Milwaukee. He appeared each of the first three days with a white bandage on his ear, covering a wound he sustained in the Saturday shooting.

His moment of survival has shaped the week, even as convention organizers insisted they would continue with their program as planned less than 48 hours after the shooting. Speakers and delegates have repeatedly chanted “Fight, fight, fight!” in homage to Trump's words as he got to his feet and pumped his fist after Secret Service agents killed the gunman. And some of his supporters have started sporting their own makeshift bandages on the convention floor.

Trump has said the shooting also led him to change his RNC speech, from what was going to be “a humdinger” made up largely of attacks on President Joe Biden to one more focused on bringing the country together.

“Honestly, it’s going to be a whole different speech now," Trump told the Washington Examiner.

His son Donald Trump Jr. said earlier this week that he spent a few hours with him trying to “de-escalate” some of the rhetoric in the former president's speech following the attack. Trump has not released information about the extent of his injuries or the treatment he received.

RNC speakers this week have attributed Trump's survival to divine intervention and paid tribute to victim Corey Comperatore, who died after shielding his wife and daughter from gunfire at the rally.

“Instead of a day of celebration, this could have been a day of heartache and mourning,” Trump’s vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, said in his speech to the convention on Wednesday.

In his first prime-time speech since becoming the nominee for vice president, Vance spoke of growing up poor in Kentucky and Ohio, his mother addicted to drugs and his father absent, and of how he later joined the military and went on to the highest levels of U.S. politics.

The convention has showcased a Republican Party reshaped by Trump since he shocked the GOP establishment and won the hearts of the party’s grassroots on his way to the party’s 2016 nomination. Rivals Trump has vanquished — including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — put aside their past criticisms and gave him their unqualified support.

Even Vance, Trump’s pick to carry his movement into the next generation, was once a fierce critic who suggested in a private message since made public that Trump could be “America’s Hitler.”

While Republicans were set to emerge from their convention more united than in recent memory, Democrats are bitterly divided about whether Biden should continue to lead the ticket. Biden, following his disastrous debate performance against Trump last month, has resisted increasing pressure to drop out, with Democrats' own party convention scheduled for next month in Chicago.

Nearly two-thirds of Democrats nationally say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP/NORC poll released Wednesday.

Some national polls do show a close race, though others suggest Trump with a lead. And some state polls have contained warning signs for Biden, too, including a recent New York Times/Siena poll that suggested a competitive race in Virginia, which the Biden won in their 2020 matchup.

The RNC has tried to give voice to the fear and frustration of conservatives while also trying to promote the former president as a symbol of hope for all voters.

Trump Jr. spoke movingly Wednesday about his father’s bravery, saying he showed “for all the world” that “the next American president has the heart of a lion.” But he toggled back and forth between talking about his father as a symbol of national unity and slamming his enemies.

“When he stood up with blood on his face and the flag at his back the world saw a spirit that could never be broken,” Trump Jr. said.

Trump has not spoken in public since the shooting, though he's given interviews off camera. But he referenced it during a private fundraiser on Wednesday, according to a clip of his remarks recorded on a cellphone and obtained by PBS News.

“I got lucky,” he said. “God was with me.”

Follow the AP's coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Donald Trump Jr., arrives to speak on third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump Jr., arrives to speak on third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald J. Trump Jr. speaks during the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Donald J. Trump Jr. speaks during the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance waves during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance waves during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump prepares to depart after the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump prepares to depart after the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives on third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives on third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump watches during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump watches during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives at the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives at the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on stage during his walk-through on the third day of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump on stage during his walk-through on the third day of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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