TODAY   |  March 10, 2014

Putin defends Crimea’s referendum

Russia has increased its military presence in the Crimean peninsula as Ukraine’s acting prime minister prepares to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Obama. NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, reports.

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>> on in ukraine .

>> that's right. and russia has increased the military presence in the crimea peninsula. nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has the latest. good morning.

>> good morning, natalie. that white house visit for the leader of the new prowestern government intended to boost his legitimacy in the eyes of the world in advance of crimea 's vote to break away from ukraine scheduled for next weekend. he's coming here largely because he cannot get talks with moscow. moscow is refusing to deal with the new leader. and clashes on sunday shows how tense the crisis is. contrasted in crimea with violence when russian supporters attacked pro- ukraine demonstrators. vladimir putin has made it clear he's not budging. he spoke to angela merkel and david cameron telling them both the upcoming vote in crimea is perfectly legal and constitutional. the hope is that merkel can try to mediate this growing conflict. but so far, president obama has certainly not been able to. he's spoken to putin twice for 2 1/2 hours total and gotten nowhere.

>> andrea mitchell in washington. thank you, andrea.