The landmark unconventional gas deal that Ukraine signed with Royal Dutch Shell in Davos on Thursday is not just a boost to its hopes of reducing its energy dependency on Russia.

It could give a much-needed fillip to its investment climate. Read more

As two of the biggest beasts in the central and east European banking jungle, Raiffeissen Bank and Unicredit’s Bank Austria have good reason to talk up the region’s prospects. Right now, they have a motive too: over 1,200 delegates are in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday for an annual Euromoney conference that is a key date in the CEE investor calendar. Read more

The outline agreement by BP’s billionaire partners in TNK-BP to sell their stake to Rosneft for about $28bn is a very big deal indeed – Russia’s largest to date by value.

But it seems likely to pave the way for an even bigger one: Rosneft taking control of the whole of the joint venture by buying out BP’s 50 per cent stake too. Read more

Many headlines surrounding the shock victory of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition alliance in Georgia’s elections have focused on the billionaire’s plans to rebuild relations with Moscow. With Ivanishvili also stressing he wants to stick with Georgia’s integration with the west, political analysts are wondering which way he will go.

But for investors, this is something of a sideshow. More pressing is whether domestic stability can be maintained, and with it the relatively positive climate for foreign investment created in the past eight years. Read more

Just as Hungary moved in from the cold a little on Friday, opening the way for talks on a new IMF/EU support package, bigger neighbour Romania was fast moving the other way.

The Romanian leu has touched record lows against the euro as parliament voted to suspend the president in what opponents are calling a power grab by the prime minister’s ruling coalition. The currency could remain under pressure for some time. Read more

So the EBRD has a new, British, president, breaking the Franco-German stranglehold on the institution and elected for the first time through an open competition. Will the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other multilateral bodies now come under pressure to do the same?

Well, possibly. Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the winning candidate, said after his victory the “open, fair and merit-based process has been a credit to the Bank and to all the other candidates”. Read more

At least the economic outlook in central and eastern Europe has stopped getting worse, for now. Forecasts published on Friday by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development foresee 1 per cent growth in 2012 in south-eastern Europe unchanged from the bank’s previous forecast in January.

For central Europe and the Baltic states, moreover, the bank has actually lifted its 2012 forecast by 0.2 points since January, to 1.6 per cent, driven by growth upgrades for Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland, and a smaller forecast contraction in Hungary. Read more

The two-day annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, starting on Friday, promises more drama than usual. Not only must the key east European lender find further ways of stemming contagion from the escalating eurozone crisis – and Greece’s possible exit – into its core region. It also faces a leadership contest that some European officials say could become a “battle for the soul” of the institution. Read more

If Britain’s Sir Suma Chakrabarti becomes president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – and some insiders give him a decent shot – employees can expect a rather different style from some of his predecessors.

The bank that helped build market democracy in eastern Europe and aspires to do the same in Arab spring countries needs a president who is more of a “CEO”, says the man who set up and manages Britain’s new justice ministry. That means modern management, “nine-box matrices” of performance versus potential, “pulse” surveys. Chakrabarti is, he says, the kind of guy who lunches in the staff canteen. Read more

And they’re off. European Union finance ministers’ failure last Friday to agree on the next president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has turned the appointment from a quick decision into a protracted contest between five candidates.

The outcome depends on some complex politics. The job heading the lender to “emerging” Europe has become enmeshed with negotiations over three top eurozone positions. France is understood to have indicated it does not now want to see decisions on any of those until its own presidential election process is completed on May 6.

So that leaves observers time to study the runners and riders. Here is beyondbrics’s guide to their prospects: Read more

Thomas Mirow, EBRD presidentJockeying among the European Union countries for top eurozone financial jobs has thrown into question the chances of Germany’s Thomas Mirow (pictured left) of winning a second four-year term as president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

That could yet lead to a real contest for the first time for leadership of the bank, set up two decades ago to assist eastern Europe’s post-communist transformation. Read more

Were those really tears running down Vladimir Putin’s cheeks? The returning Russian president has long nurtured a he-man image, but as he addressed thousands of supporters outside the Kremlin walls on Sunday night his voice was, unusually, cracking. Read more

Momentum is building behind another big anti-Kremlin protest on Saturday – despite the authorities’ dirty tricks against opposition leaders. By mid-Wednesday, more than 36,000 people had clicked on a Facebook page to indicate they were going (8,000 more say “maybe”), and 10,000 on the Russian site VKontakte.

With the protest occurring on Christmas Eve, at least in the western calendar (though not in Orthodox Russia), when other news tends to be scarce, it will certainly be prominent in TV news bulletins. How rattled should investors be? Read more

Photo: Eurasian Law

These are tricky times to be an oligarch in Russia – and an even tricker to be an oligarch with a media empire. How far can you go in joining those who have taken to the streets to criticise alleged fraud in last week’s parliamentary election?

Alisher Usmanov, the billionaire metals tycoon, has drawn a line. He has fired two senior executives of his Kommersant publishing house after its weekly news magazine, Kommersant-Vlast, printed a photograph of a ballot paper scrawled with a profanity addressed to Vladimir Putin. Read more

Trajan Basescu, president of Romania. Nov 2011Ewald Nowotny, Austria’s central bank governor, had soothing words when he spoke to beyondbrics about new rules curbing Austrian banks’ future lending to central and eastern Europe.

The countries affected are not so sure. In his usual trenchant way, Romanian president Traian Basescu (pictured)  warned on Thursday the new regulation was not “fair play”, and might even reflect a “mistake or a misunderstanding of its impact”. Mojmir Hampl, deputy governor of the Czech central bank, told a newspaper Prague was not informed in advance. Europe’s central bankers may all be in the same boat.  But not everybody gets a paddle. Read more

The Valdai Discussion Club, the annual conference of academics and journalists specialising in Russia, has sometimes been dismissed by critics as a Kremlin-sponsored propaganda-fest. Not this year.

Debates at the event, held this week in provincial Kaluga, 200km from Moscow, and in the capital itself, have reflected deep unease among both Russian and international observers about the country’s political and economic outlook. Read more

Does the fact that three Russian mining and metals companies are all seeking full listings in London at the same time signal jitters over the environment at home, with Vladimir Putin set to return as president next year?

Not according to Alexander Nesis, founder of one of them – the gold and silver producer Polymetal.

“The business climate is more stable than ever before,” Nesis, Russia’s 39th richest man, tells beyondbrics. “This is good for those businesses which exist today.” Read more

Russia’s super-rich have spawned a literary genre, the oligarch thriller. Even John Le Carre’s latest, Our Kind of Traitor, features a Russian millionaire called Dima with a diamond-encrusted watch. But reality is so much more entertaining than fiction.

The case of Boris Berezovsky v Roman Abramovich, which opened in London’s High Court this week, has the classic elements – political intrigues, protection money, mansions in the south of France, and yachts the length of football pitches. It is not, however, exactly what Russia’s investment image needed, just as prime minister Vladimir Putin is trying to reassure investors ahead of his return as president next year. Read more

Russia must have feared the worst from Tuesday’s Strasbourg ruling on the Yukos affair: headlines saying Moscow had been found to have expropriated the oil company’s assets and should pay tens of billions in damages to shareholders.

In the event, the European Court of Human Rights ruling was a lot better news for the Russian government than for the Yukos side. Read more

The former Soviet republic of Georgia is not on many investors’ minds – yet. But Bank of Georgia, the country’s number one bank – and the only actively traded stock in the country – intends to reincorporate as a UK holding company and shift to a premium London Stock Exchange listing. That will replace the global depositary receipts that have traded in London since 2006 with ordinary shares, opening it to a much broader universe of investors. Read more