Duma deputy head visits Ukraine's Russian-occupied Kherson - RIA

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- Senior Russian lawmaker Anna Kuznetsova visited the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in Ukraine to discuss social and healthcare needs of the local population, the state RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

There have been sparse confirmed reports of Russian senior officials visiting areas of fighting since Russia invaded its neighbour on Feb. 24.

Kherson is the first region set to be annexed after Moscow said in April it had gained full control of the region, which has seen sporadic anti-Russian protests.

Kuznetsova, deputy head of Russia's Duma or lower house of parliament, discussed the supply of foodstuffs as well as medical and other products needed for children, RIA reported.

"We are here ready to provide all kinds of assistance," Kuznetsova, the wife of an Orthodox priest and mother of seven was quoted saying.

The agency did not report when the visit took place. could not independently verify the report.

Russia says its "special operation" in Ukraine was needed to disarm Ukraine and protect its Russian-speakers from "fascists". Ukraine and much of the West call that a baseless pretext for an imperialist war of aggression.

Kherson, home to a port city of the same name, provides part of the land link between the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, and Russian-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin said it was up to residents living in the region to decide whether they wanted to join Russia.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard)

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