The European Union's top long-term credit rating has been downgraded by the agency Standard & Poors, citing what it called lessening cohesion. The dip to AA+ coincides with an EU summit in Brussels.
Amnesty for Pussy Riot and a pardon for jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But Putin's "softer side" is not a sign of weakness. In fact, the Russian president is stronger than ever, says DW's Ingo Mannteufel.
European Union leaders have used their last summit of the year to agree to step up military cooperation in the face of financial constraints. They have also agreed a new mechanism to deal with ailing banks.