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Russian MP Anna Kuznetsova visited the Russian-occupied Kherson region of Ukraine to discuss the social and health needs of the local population, the official RIA news agency reported on Saturday.

There have been few confirmed reports of senior Russian officials visiting combat zones since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24.

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

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Kuznetsova, deputy speaker of the State Duma or lower house of the Russian parliament, discussed the supply of foodstuffs as well as medical and other products needed by children, RIA reported.

“We are here ready to provide all kinds of assistance,” said Kuznetsova, the wife of an Orthodox priest and mother of seven children.

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

Russia says its “special operation” in Ukraine was necessary to disarm Ukraine and protect its Russian speakers from “fascists”. Ukraine and much of the West call this 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 breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin said it was up to the people of the region to decide whether they wanted to join Russia.

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