By Mick Krever, CNN
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is speaking out for the first time on the “unconventional” backdoor negotiations he led to get MH17’S black boxes and victims’ bodies out of eastern Ukraine.
“Sometimes,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday, “you have to work the back channels.”
When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib came to the United Nations last year, he could never have imagined that two of his country's planes would soon suffer disasters.
“If you can imagine, he said, “just four months after MH370 disappeared, and all of a sudden, middle of the night, you know, a message comes across: Look, we've just lost a plane; it’s off the radar.”
“I was in a state of disbelief.”
When MH17 was shot down over Ukraine just over two months ago, bodies were left to rot in the fields, and the crucial black boxes – the key to the truth about what happened – remained under control of separatist rebels.
Prime Minister Najib, stung by his government's ineffectual response to the disappearance of MH370 in the Indian Ocean, had learned his lesson.
“I think there were some things that we got right with respect to the first tragedy; some things that, you know, we could have done better, especially on the communication side.”
“But this time, we realized that we needed to act and we acted differently.”
As western leaders turned up the rhetoric on Russia, it was only through Prime Minister Najib's rare personal intervention – negotiating directly with the rebels – that the bodies and black boxes were recovered.
“I met each and every one – individual families,” he said. “I was moved, I was almost in tears.”
“As the leader of the country I needed to do something; I needed to bring close to the families.”
What he decided to do, he told Amanpour, was “rather unconventional.”
“Normally as a government, you’d only deal with another government. But here is a movement, a separatist movement, and there was this impasse.”
“We couldn't retrieve the bodies; we couldn't get our hands on the black boxes; we couldn't have access to the crash site.”
“Dealing with the separatists was something just unprecedented.”
There were many even in his own government who didn’t know what he was doing.
“I'm afraid I had to act alone, because it was very, very sensitive. I had to press the buttons, I had to work the back channels. I had to even conduct the operation itself.”
“I was doing it myself, I was literally guiding our team from one checkpoint to another.”