Washington has denied Moscow's claims that the US was to blame for triggering days of protests against election fraud. The State Department also brushed off allegations that it was funding elements to fuel instability.
Protests took place in both Moscow and St. Petersburg
The US State Department on Thursday denied Russian accusations that it had sent a "signal" to spark demonstrations on the streets of Moscow complaining about election fraud.
Responding to three days of protest that have seen 1,600 people arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russian Prime Minister Putin accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of criticizing the election process before reading reports by international monitors.
Washington hit back at Putin's allegation that - by describing the election as flawed - Clinton had sparked the protests.
The independent monitor Golos has questioned the validity of the results
"In terms of signaling, we've stood up, as we have elsewhere in the world, and continue to stand for the right for people to peacefully express their views and their democratic aspirations," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. "We're going to continue to do so," he told reporters "There's no signaling involved."
Toner also dismissed the allegation that US was guilty of trying to influence the election process with money. Russia's only independent election monitor, the Golos website, is supported by grants from the US and European governments.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Toner. "These programs… are designed to support a more transparent, free and fair electoral process. They're not about favoring any political group or any political agenda more than any other agenda."
'Full investigation needed'
Clinton has repeatedly criticized Sunday's parliamentary poll, saying "Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation."
Putin, claiming that Washington was intimidated by Russia's standing as a leading nuclear power, said the US had intentionally spurred the protesters in to action.
Putin said Clinton had been too hasty in her assessment of the election results
"They heard this signal and, with the support of the US State Department, began their active work," Putin said in televised remarks. The Russian premier accused Washington of spending "hundreds of millions" of dollars inside Russia and said his government had to "work out ways to protect our sovereignty from outside interference."
Allegations of harassment
Golos - which alleges that electoral violations took place - has complained of extreme harassment by authorities since the build-up to the elections, with communications paralyzed and its chief detained for hours.
Putin's United Russia party won the Sunday election with a reduced majority in parliament and just under half of the popular vote. However, the opposition says the results would have been far worse in free polls.
Putin, who became premier in 2008 after two terms as president, officially filed his application on Wednesday to stand in the March election.
Author: Richard Connor (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Andrew Bowen