Moscow/Washington, 14 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian reports say the latest fighting in Chechnya has been fierce, with federal forces suffering a high number of casualties. The Interfax news agency, quoting military sources, said 33 Russian soldiers had died and 26 others were injured in a 24-hour period. The report said 40 Chechen rebels had died in the fighting in the capital Grozny and the southern part of the breakaway republic. In Washington, the U.S. State Department confirmed that U.S. officials would hold "unofficial" talks with Chechen representative Ilyas Akhmadov. Akhmadov, the self-declared foreign minister of Chechen separatists, is now in Washington. The meeting was to include talks on humanitarian and refugee concerns, but U.S. officials said they were treating Akhmadov as a private citizen and that the meeting did not mark a change in U.S. policy or U.S. recognition of Chechen independence in any form.