The Russian Justice Ministry has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking the declaration of the national headquarters of the religious group, Jehovah's Witnesses, as an extremist organisation.

In response, the organisation's Russian branch warned that the move would "entail disastrous consequences for freedom of religion in Russia", affecting around 175,000 followers at more than 2,000 congregations in the country.

According to RAPSI news, the Russian legal information agency, the filing was announced by the court on Thursday (16 March), but the headquarters of the religious body said it did not receive any notice from the ministry.

A statement from its local branch noted that extremist ideologies are "deeply alien to the Bible-based beliefs and morality of Jehovah's Witnesses".

"Persecution of the faithful for peaceful anti-extremism legislation is built on frank fraud, incompetent individual 'experts' and, as a result, a miscarriage of justice," it added, according to USA Today.

The headquarters named in the lawsuit is located about 25 miles northwest of St Petersburg. The court announcement did not give any details on when it could hear the matter.

Jehovah's Witnesses, which according to their international website was first legally registered in 1991 as a religious group in Russia and re-registered in 1999, has faced several legal troubles in the past.

RAPSI noted that on 25 January, the chairman of the Jehovah's Witnesses branch in the Russian town of Dzerzhinsk was fined 4,000 roubles ($67) for keeping and distributing banned extremist literature.

The Supreme Court of Russia declared "The Jehovah's Witnesses of Stary Oskol" in the Belgorod Region as an extremist organisation in a ruling on 16 June, 2015. In 2004, a Moscow court dissolved and banned a Jehovah's Witnesses group accusing the body of recruiting children, inciting suicide and preventing followers from accepting medical assistance, and encouraging followers to break from their families.