President Gorbachev and other officials asserted that it was necessary to stop pogroms and violence against the Armenian population and to thwart efforts by extremists to overthrow the Azerbaijani government. The government's decree said: "Extremist groups are organizing mass disorders fanning national enmity. They are committing bold criminal acts, mining roads and bridges, shelling settlements, taking hostages."
Defence Minister Yazov also said that nationalists were plotting a coup d'état in Azerbaijan: "A meeting was planned at which it was proposed to declare the transfer of power into the hands of the People's Front." He noted how the "Popular Front" declared its own state of emergency in Baku before the action was taken and how Soviet state organs "ceased to control the situation."