Washington: Russian election protests did not come from the outside, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday in her first public response to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's accusations of interfering in Russia's domestic affairs. The US administration, including Clinton, earlier voiced concern over irregularities reported by international observers at the December 4 parliamentary elections in Russia.

Clinton said the polls were neither free nor fair. Russia rejected the accusations.

“This was not about the United States. This was about the people of Russia,” Clinton said.

“Russia has one of the most highly educated populations in the world, and now a growing middle class with all the aspirations that middle class families have. And so this didn't come from the outside; it came from within,” she said.

The ruling United Russia party won the Russia's State Duma elections, gaining about 50 percent of the vote. Tens of thousands went to the streets to protest the vote results, which they say were rigged.

Independent observers and critics claimed the vote was slanted in favour of United Russia and cited incidents of ballot stuffing, but the authorities said the elections were fair and irregularities were minor, pledging to investigate all violations.

“Independent observers had reached the conclusion that there was unfortunately a lot of interference, manipulation of the election,” Clinton said.

She said one of the US' strongest values is “protection and advocacy for human rights, and in particular, our support for democracy and the recognition that although elections are not by any means the only definition of democracy, they are a kind of condition that has to be satisfied to go forward.”

“We're always looking at how we can communicate clearly what the United States stands for, and in this case, what the Russian people deserve,” she said.