peter great russian ship
A 2003 picture of Russia's nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, which could soon be sailing in the Mediterranean from new bases in Cyprus after the deal was sealed with Russia
Russia has gained a military foothold in Europe after Vladimir Putin signed a controversial deal with Cyprus to dock warships there.

British MPs said Nicosia's decision to let the Russian navy, including heavily armed frigates, use its ports for counter-terrorism and anti-piracy was 'worrying and disappointing'.

Cyprus, an EU member, thrashed out the agreement despite already hosting two British military bases and 3,200 troops. President Putin insisted the deal 'should not cause worries anywhere'.

But Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who was visiting Moscow, hinted Russian warplanes could also be allowed to use a military airbase in Paphos, on the south-west coast of the island.

The deal raised eyebrows as tensions between the West and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine continue to rise.

It will be watched warily by the UK, which has led calls for a string of punishing economic sanctions against Moscow for arming pro-Kremlin separatists who have taken over huge swathes of territory.

On Tuesday, Britain announced it would deploy 75 troops to Ukraine as trainers - a move certain to have infuriated Putin. Russian bombers have recently buzzed UK airspace in a show of strength.

The latest agreement fuelled speculation that the Kremlin had engineered the deal by putting together a multibillion-pound package to bail out debt-ridden Cyprus.

The two countries, which have long had close economic ties, signed protocols including fresh financial deals between Cyprus and the Central Bank of Russia.

There had already been a surge in Russian navy visits to the Cypriot port of Limassol, but the new agreement puts the situation on more solid legal ground.

Tory MP Richard Ottaway, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: 'It is going to make renewing sanctions against Russia ... much more unlikely.

'Putin is trying to drive a wedge between countries in the EU.'

A senior British Army officer said: 'This will be watched closely by London. We know Russia has long coveted a naval base in Cyprus.

'This is another sign we are creeping back into a new Cold War.'

Dr James Ker-Lindsay, an expert on the politics of south-east Europe at the London School of Economics, said many in the EU 'will feel worried and disappointed by this agreement'.

He said Cyprus felt the EU had not helped it at the height of the financial crisis, yet Russian businesses and oligarchs stayed and did not withdraw their money.

Unveiling the deal, President Putin said: 'Our friendly ties aren't aimed against anyone. I don't think it should cause worries anywhere.'