Russia's top election official said on Monday that if the situation worsened in four Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine, local elections scheduled there for September would be cancelled.
Russia controls just under one-fifth of Ukraine, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and parts of four other regions that Russian troops have taken control of since the current war began in February 2022.
President Vladimir Putin says the regions - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson - are now part of Russia, after Moscow unilaterally annexed them last year.
Ukraine says the annexation is illegal and void, and that it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its internationally recognised territory. The front line of the conflict - which Moscow calls a "special military operation" - runs through all four regions.
"Since the situation is really difficult, anything can happen," Ella Panfilova, who chairs Russia's Central Election Commission, told Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin.
"If unforeseen circumstances arise – in some areas the situation may deteriorate dramatically - and we see that there is a serious danger to the life and health of residents, then we have the right to postpone these elections," she said.
"We will certainly use this right if there are serious reasons for it."
Putin replied: "Understood."
Russia holds regional and municipal elections on Sept. 10, including elections of 21 regional leaders and 20 regional legislatures, Panfilova said. There are also four by-elections for seats in the federal parliament.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)