The head of Russia`s natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom on Monday called for a long-term deal with Ukraine as the country faces major hike in the price for gas, according to AP.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller was in Kyiv to talk to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other officials about signing a gas supply contract for 2009 and beyond.

"We should be aiming for a long-term contract, I hope that in the course of today`s meeting we can discuss the principles of organizing such work," Miller was quoted as telling Tymoshenko, according to a government statement.

With world energy prices on the rise, Gazprom has said that Ukraine`s current price of US$180 per 1,000 cubic meters could more than double next year to US$400.

Ukrainian officials have said such a steep rise could cripple the economy and has instead asked for a phased increase.

Tymoshenko agreed with the need for a long-term agreement. "We are extremely interested in considering each other reliable partners," she was quoted as saying.

Russia and Ukraine have uneasy relations when it comes to natural gas supplies. Pricing disputes in the past have led to gas cut-off and supply reductions, which also affected consumers in Western Europe.

Russia is angered by Ukraine`s aspiration to integrate its long-term economic and security policies with Western institutions like the European Union and NATO.