Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister and leader of the ruling United Russia party, said on Tuesday the decline in the partys support, as shown in Sunday's elections, had been inevitable. United Russia won the Duma polls on December 4 with just under 50% of the vote, a serious setback on 64.4% in the 2007 elections. There were losses but losses are inevitable for any political force, especially one that has been bearing the responsibility for the country for years, Putin said at a conference with senior regional officials of the party. In the current conditions, this is a good result, said Putin, 59, who is going to run for president in March. In response to corruption allegations by party critics, Putin said it was not the party that was at fault, but individual officials. It is not a feature characteristic of a specific political party but of the authorities. If we remember the Soviet years, who was in power then? They were all called corrupt and thieves. The same in the 1990s, Putin said. Critics and observers have described the elections as fraudulent. The elections were followed by opposition protests in central Moscow on Monday night which were dispelled when protesters tried to move to another unsanctioned site. United Russia loyalists plan a meeting later on Tuesday.