MOSCOW (AP) — The leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is calling on the head of the Kremlin's human rights council to prevent what the denomination fears is an imminent total ban on the religion.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim more than 170,000 faithful in Russia, have come under increasing pressure in recent years, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws.

In February, investigators conducted an inspection of the religion's headquarters in St. Petersburg, which could be a precursor to a ban.

"A ban on its activity in Russia would cause uneasiness throughout the world," the religion's Russian leader, Vasily Kalin, said in a letter to presidential human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov. A copy was made available to The Associated Press on Thursday.