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TODAY   |  March 07, 2014

Obama, Putin have tense phone call

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a tense, hour-long phone conversation, with Obama urging Putin to pursue a diplomatic solution to the tensions roiling Ukraine. NBC's Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> meanwhile, let's get to our top story on a friday morning. that is the ongoing crisis in ukraine . and that phone call between president obama and president putin . with president obama urging direct talks between russia and ukraine . andrea mitchell is nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent. good morning to you.

>> good morning. no solution in sight today after that hour long telephone call , matt, from president obama thursday night. vladimir putin today flatly rejecting another appeal from the russian pl to pull back forces and begin talks with ukraine 's new leaders.

>> reporter: this morning, tensions in ukraine are running higher. crimea 's attempt to break away from ukraine and join russia . a move president obama told vladimir putin would be illegal.

>> any discussion about the future of ukraine must include the legitimate government of ukraine .

>> reporter: the union ramped up sanctions on russia thursday. as ukraine 's acting prime minister echoed ronald reagan 's famous berlin wall speech blasting vladimir putin .

>> president putin , mr. putin , tear down this wall , the wall of intimidation, the wall of military aggression.

>> reporter: today, putin is facing even more backlash. just one month after hosting the winter olympics , putin is back in sochi, today, opening the paralympics. but they are not sending official government delegations. why is crimea so important to russia ? crimea was part of russia for centuries. and is still home to russia 's black sea naval base . nearly 60% of citizens identify themselves as russian. the crisis is personal for one upstate new york family who had an emotional family reunion thursday.

>> be somewhere safe.

>> reporter: taylor and her 3-month-old daughter were advised to leave their home in crimea returning to the u.s. where they join taylor 's family. but taylor had to leave her ukrainian husband behind.

>> it breaks my heart. i don't think it's fair. and i feel awful. half the time i feel like i'm doing the wrong thing. you shouldn't split a family up. but i have to keep my daughter safe.

>> and ukraine 's interim prime minister also tried to get russia to pull back from crimea with the same result. so far, russia is not blinking. the standoff continues. matt and savannah.

>> andrea mitchell in washington. thanks