Moscow, 21 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - With Russian forces locked in heavy combat with rebels in Chechnya, Russian acting President Vladimir Putin is due today to hold talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Putin yesterday met in Moscow with Italy's Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini as western countries kept up a fresh wave of interest in the Chechen war.
In an incident that could affect the morale of Russian forces, the Defense Ministry confirmed that one of Russia's top commanders in Chechnya, Major General Mikhail Malofeyev, had gone missing in action in the breakaway republic.
There were conflicting reports on what had happened to Malofeyev. Chechen fighters claimed they had captured him, while some Russian reports said he had been killed.
The Russian and Chechen sides reported casualties as intense fighting continued in Chechnya's capital Grozny. Russian military officials said their operation to seize the city was pressing forward in the face of tough rebel resistance.