But their conversation also drifted to a discussion of the need for a new US ambassador in Russia, two officials said, since the current envoy Jon Huntsman is expected to depart his post soon.
Huntsman and his wife in the last few months have been on what appears to be a goodbye tour, according to an embassy source, having dinners with fellow diplomats and others as they prepare to leave the country.
Huntsman’s wife, Mary Kaye, has posted some of their recent events – such as a Friday night with the embassy’s marine guard members last month and a walk along the Moscow river – on Instagram.
While Putin and Trump discussed the fact that there will have to be a new ambassador in the coming months with Huntsman’s expected departure, the men did not discuss any names of potential replacements.
It was a relatively quick phone call, according to the officials, and the two leaders did not discuss the decision to formally withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia or impending sanctions on Russia for its poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom.
After this story published, Mary Kaye Huntsman said in a social media post that they would have an announcement “coming soon” and be saying “goodbye to many friends.” She denied there was a farewell tour.
“Our announcement will be coming soon and I’m sure we’ll at that point say goodbye to many friends before we leave,” she posted on Instagram.
She also said their work has been “tough and emotionally wrenching with countless colleagues expelled under unprecedented conditions in our relationship.”
Trump told reporters Thursday that the two “had a good talk, a short talk, but a good talk,” and Moscow, which issued a statement about the call hours before the White House did, said Trump had initiated it.
Neither the American nor the Russian statement mentioned any discussion of the sanctions, but Putin praised Trump’s offer of firefighting help “as a guarantee that in the future it will be possible to restore full-fledged relations between the two countries.”
The State Department did not reply to request for comment on Huntsman’s tenure.
The ambassador’s time in Russia
Huntsman, who has served in the post since 2017, was directly involved in the case of Paul Whelan, an American corporate security director who was mysteriously detained by Russian authorities on suspicion of spying.
In January, Hunstman visited Whelan personally – an atypical move for an ambassador, CNN analyst John Kirby said – when Whelan was arrested in a possible retaliation move 15 days after alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty in US federal court to trying to infiltrate political circles and influence US relations with Russia.
Huntsman revealed in November that he had stage one melanoma – a diagnosis that he did not share with anyone in Moscow out of concern of how the information would be received. Huntsman, a former Utah governor and 2012 presidential candidate, previously served as ambassador to China in 2009.
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Emanuella Grinberg, Veronica Stracqualursi and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.