Claymore’s Adventures: KGB, Afghan Refugees and Mystery Glass Vials

Editor’s note: Claymore’s career took many interesting twists and turn through some of the worlds most notorious regions. His first article for TFB, about the rare AK rifles he discovered deep in the jungle, can be read here. His second article about the Chinese AK clones he found in the jungle can be read here.

We have another “what is it story?” today. The response from our readers on the other stories of this type has been very good. You guys are experts on this stuff.

Way back in 1988 my partner and I were doing our thing in the Pakistani town of Peshawar which had grown huge due to an influx of Afghan refugees fleeing the first war in Afghanistan.

One of the honchos we were working for “Ho chi Lynn” was an avid collector of all things from the soviet military and had put out the word to the teams going into Afghanistan that he wanted to see anything they collected.

He was showing us some of the goodies had had gotten from the teams and most of them were easily recognizable as standard military equipment.

Then he brought out this pair of glass vials (photo top) that had us all stumped.

The back story he told us is they were taken from the KGB building in the Chowni Garrrison in Afghanistan by one of our Muj and given to “Mr. Lynn” as he was known to the Afghans. 

This is where the saga begins and has yet to end so I’m hoping one of our readers can help me out.

The glass vials come well packed in a sturdy metal container that is painted in the typical soviet OD green.

As a side note if you do not have a ruler where you are taking the photos any object that is always of a standard size, like this cigarette pack, can be used for scale of the objects.

Liquid Closed Can 2

The vials are held in the cans by wrapped paper we think to prevent rattles and give some protection to the fragile glass vials.

As you can see clearly in this photo the metal container is marked “1” and “2” showing they are not the same thing.

They are also marked on the tips one red and one blue. One is an amber liquid and one is clear.

Liquid Open Can 4

This is a better shot of the paper wraps and the lid that is just popped on and off with no hindge or seals of any kind.

Liquid can top 3

So we had it but nobody knew what the heck it is.

So we do our thing as usual and before we headed back to the states we took the photos above as we knew we would be checking in with our contacts to see if we could find out what these things are.

We got back to the states and I sent the photos to my buddy Capt. Mike at an army intelligence unit because the Army was always interested in new military things found in that area of the world. The photos had to be sent by mail because the internet was just beginning to come into popular use. (BTW Capt Mike it’s 26 years later and you haven’t sent my photos back!)

A couple weeks later Capt. mike calls me and we go to the story of my using the STU (Secure Telephone Unit) at the FBI office.

The photos and these vials have now been classified which led to the STU phone call at the FBI office in my last post.

I think I have posted this before but the comments may have gone missing with the newest Disqus update from old posts.  So here is the short version of that phone call. If you have read it already skip down. Mike said he can’t talk over an unsecured phone so is there an STU that I could get to?

So I head up to the main FBI office in our state capitol and tell the FBI I’m expecting a call on the STU. the FBI guys I knew all all over themselves as to what I could need an STU for but I get to tell them they don’t have “The need to know” for once.

Anyway I get connected to Capt. Mike on the STU and he tells me  he checked every place open to Army Intelligence and nobody has even seen them before.

All of Army intelligence can say is their best guess is they are for decontaminating tanks or large equipment after a chemical leak or attack but that is a qualified guess.

My partner sent his copy of the photos off to DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and the answer he got back had more info but still not 100%. DIA thought along the same lines as Army Intelligence and that the red one was for Nerve gas (neurotoxins) and the blue one for irritants.

So here we are 26 years later and I’m still not sure what these vials are for.

So my hope is some of our expert readers can help me identify these vials.

I learned my lesson and looked and searched the web using all the terms I could think of but nothing shows up. In fact I’m less convinced this could be for large vehicles now because all the things found on the net for soviet decontamination have them mixing up large 55 gallon drums stuff to use so these look too small for that purpose.

Again this is an exercise for fun. No prizes will be awarded to the winner except the good feeling of being right.


Thanks for everyone for their help identifying the vials. They are Russian individual decontamination kits ( индивидуальный дегазационный пакет – ИДП) used for decontaminating small arms after a chemical attack. One vial is for blister agents and the other is for nerve agents. A special thanks to Yuri Lyamin of Armament Research Services (ARES) and to Toni for information and the below photos.

decon kit 001



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Dan C

    Scotch and Vodka. Russians love to drink.

  • Daniel Hill

    I’m guessing you’re right, as similar cans are sold by military collectors. Contents however are a guessing game. Per documents that I’ve located, the US took possession of similar kits and developed their own decon kits (as well as personal use decon kits.)

    • claymore

      Sure looks close. But I can’t see the raised numbers on that one and ours had a no hinge lid. Could be a later version.

    • claymore

      How did you find that? Like which search terms did you use? I even tried soviet and or russian decontamination and didn’t find that one.

      • Daniel Hill

        I used soviet decontamination and or soviet decon with or without the word(s) “kit” “tin” “vial” and “glass.”

        Started with Google image search to narrow my field then worked through related sites.

    • Cristian

      You are correct,the Romanian army has them too,don’t really know why the us would be so secretive about such crappy things…

      • claymore

        So if you know about them please let us know how they work. This particular system like do you take out one vial for the chemical attack and then what? Do you break off the top and drink it, or mix it in water because it’s too small an amount to wash a whole body. Or do you need to find a syringe and inject it?

    • anon

      Thanks 2nd link is an excellent read.

  • In the eighties, during the war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union (e.g. see information of General I. B. Yevstafyev [21]) and countries of the West [111] actively accused each other with using chemical weapons. It is true that no serious proofs against the Soviet Union were offered [112]. However, munitions with OTC were known to be actively stockpiled during the war years at Ushtobe Station (Kazakhstan), which served as a way station for accumulating munitions before sending them on to the theater of military operations.

    • claymore

      We had a close encounter with “yellow rain” while with the hmong but that is for another time to relate the story. Can’t use up all my material at one time LOL.

      • No but I sure want to hear about it!!!

        • claymore

          It will be posted one day as it’s an interesting part of warfare history.

  • Some of these agents are binary weapons, in which precursors for the nerve agents are mixed in a munition to produce the agent just prior to its use. Because the precursors are generally significantly less hazardous than the agents themselves, this technique makes handling and transporting the munitions a great deal simpler. Additionally, precursors to the agents are usually much easier to stabilize than the agents themselves, so this technique also made it possible to increase the shelf life of the agents. However this has the disadvantage that careless preparation or preparation by untrained individuals may produce a non-optimal agent. During the 1980s and 1990s, binary versions of several Soviet agents were developed and are designated as “Novichok” agents.

    • Artillery Guy

      Rather spoils the whole “safety” aspect of a binary nerve agent if you’re carrying the components around in a couple of fragile glass ampoules in a sheet metal case.

  • Alexander Frye

    What is the viscosity between the two liquids? I was thinking about gun oil and solvent. or gun oil and fuel.

    • claymore

      They seemed very viscous about like water so probably not. The problem with that idea is they are one use bottles you break off that thin part like some medicine vials so you are left with an open container and no easy way to stop it up again.

      • Alexander Frye

        Ah okay. I thought that the blue and red tops could be removed and replaced. I’ve been looking everywhere for just a can and can’t find one. I’m very curious now…

  • Raoul O’Shaughnessy

    Soviet version of JB Weld.

    • guest

      All you need is to give one vial of vodka to the soviet welder before welding, and one vial of vodka once the job is done.

  • Serge Ageev

    Anti-Chemical weapons kit.

    • claymore

      I’m pretty sure it’s along those lines but if it was a personal kit and the two vials were for injection I would think a large tube syringe should be part of the kit for injection.

      They can’t be for ingestion by drinking because that would be too slow working. Our USA kits have self injectors with pre-loaded meds and are spring powered (the recent ones) to overcome the fear of self administered injections of most people. Ours hold way less of whatever we use than the amounts in the photos.

  • claymore

    Just got a real well thought out reply from my nephew by email that I’m posting here because it makes a lot of sense.

    One thing though is a lot of Soviet equipment is not the product of advanced thinking or a lot of concern fro their troops so it very well could be dangerous liquid in those vials.

    Here is his reply:
    “Just looking at the way the vials are packaged it would seem to rule out anything particularly dangerous like binary explosive, binary incendiary, binary chemical
    weapon, poison and its antidote, etc. You would think something like that would be packaged more securely to prevent an accident.

    They’re in glass vials, an expensive, inconvenient way to package them compared to plastic or metal, so I’d guess it’s for a reason.

    The contents must either be reactive with metal and/or plastic, like an acid or something, or the integrity of the contents must be protected, suggesting a medicine or drug.

    I’m going to put my money on them being the antidotes for chemical weapons or poisons, or vaccines against biological agents. Since they came from the KGB and they are unmarked, I’d guess they are spy sh** and not general issue vaccines against common stuff like the flu.


    The can looks like one I took from the Iraqis in 1991. It has a hinged lid with a large clip to secure it. The can contained small plastic vials and paper pads, different from what you’ve posted. I always understood mine to be a chemical decontamination kit.

    • claymore

      Any idea how it was used?

      • Daniel Hill

        The book I linked you to in my previous post has that info I believe. Also, do a google search for the US versions (decon kit M-295 was one, I think, and it had a precursor kit that was similar to the Russian one.) The one’s with small vials and pads were “personal” kits. The pads were used to apply decontamination to the skin. While I was searching for the previous info, I ran acriss the US ones and their MSDS sheets and instructions / uses for each fluid. I didn’t report those earler because I’m still unsure of the contents of your vials, so it would be speculation.

        Good luck! Thanks for giving me something cool to look for during the slow moments of being on duty last night!

        • claymore

          We here appreciate all your efforts. Like I said at the beginning the readers here are some smart people.

  • Karl

    Looks allot like this:
    So it probably is a decontamination kit, love the story though. Keep up the good work!

  • vamtns

    Dark fluid: Lenin’s urine
    clear fluid: sample of 1st Russian vodka ever made
    mixed together: Marxist Martini

  • gunslinger

    two vials, 1 can?

    • claymore

      Yes both vials go into the same can.

  • Jeff Smith

    Are the vials the exact same size and contain the same amount of liquId? The picture of the two makes the clear vial look slightly larger.

    If they contain different amounts of liquid, I would guess that they were meant to be mixed in a certain proportion. If it is a decontamination kit, why provide different amounts of the substances?

    • claymore

      They are the same size and look to hold the same amount.

  • 101nomad

    Vials of antidote? No idea of antidote for what, if that is what they are. We carried syringes of nerve gas antidote at times. Obviously, protected and padded, breaking and mixing prevention while carrying. Can not tell if syringes could be used by pushing thru the caps. On the other hand, what could kill if such small amounts were mixed by a suicidal individual?

  • Jacqueshacques

    Chemical decontamination is a “cool” answer, and seems very likely, but is there a chance that it’s something more prosaic, like something for large batches of water purification, or a fuel additive, like soviet gumout? A hydrocarbon would make sense in a glass container, and a fuel additive or water purification chemical is something that would all be dumped in to a specified amount of liquid at once.

  • Kh-15

    I’ve seen similar kits before if my memory serves me…

    They are, if I remember right, decontamination agents, each respective one for a different agent set. Typically they were issued to the KGB for if they got poisoned I suppose or exposed to a lethal/dangerous substance, including radiation (red). They were not typically standard issue, obviously. If they came from the KGB/GRU, this would not be unexpected, but HOW they got out of KGB/GRU hands is a mystery unto itself

  • phuzz

    Slight correction. I assume you’re talking about the 1978 war in Afghanistan, but it wasn’t even the first in the 20th century. The recent conflict was the fourth time the British army has attacked there. This time went only slightly better than the three previous. Those who do not learn from history etc.

  • JimBob

    Concentrated sufluric and nitric acid.

  • bob the_larger

    Kinda looks like the decon kit shown at this site,

    • claymore

      Looks like Bob has found a match with this link.It sure looks just like that. Good find. Can you get into the site and read out the descriptive material under the photo?

      I know we could rely on our members to help solve this mystery. Thanks.

  • bob the_larger

    odd, I’ve tried to post a translation of a page with more info on the kit but it Disqus seems to have snacked on the both of them :-/

  • claymore

    Well it looks like member “bob the_larger” found the very closest match of all. A bunch of other good links and finds by other members added to the mix I knew you guys would find it.

    It looks to be a “Decontamination kit for personal weapons”.

    That would make a lot of sense as there is too little material to do a body or vehicle. And there would be no need for a syringe if you were decontaminating a weapon.

    The paper wrapping can be unrolled and used as disposable “wiping material”. It looks like you figure out which type chemical was being used on you and break open the top of the vial and pour it onto the paper and wipe down your weapon.

    Good job guys another mystery solved.

  • Wetcoaster

    …if they really wanted to know back then, wouldn’t they have submitted the contents to a chemistry lab? And if they want to know now, about half the former Warsaw Pact are NATO members now. Surely someone in former East Germany or Poland would be willing to talk about the weird-ass things their Soviet advisors would drag around with them.

  • Greg

    Another idea, during Afghan war Russians typically poison source of waters in the villages. So maybe it is a kit to do this?.

    • claymore

      Yes they did that but the answer to this particular set of vials has been found by bob the _larger.

    • Schadavi

      These vials would be too small to do that. Water sources were not poisoned to kill someone, but to drive people out of their villages. To achieve this, usually motor oil was used due to availability and low cost, and it was easily detected.

  • махатма ганди

    This is an individual package degassing IDP (ИДП)

    Used for decontamination and disinfection of small arms. It consists of a metal casing in which there are two glass ampoules degassing solutions of N1 and N2, and the five paper napkins. Type degassed poisons – VX, soman, mustard. Flow – one package for one weapon.

  • BigXPEH

    This is an individual package degassing IDP (ИДП). It consists of a metal casing in which there are two glass ampoules degassing solutions of N1 and N2, and the five paper napkins. Type degassed poisons – VX, soman, mustard. Flow – one package for one weapon.

  • guy

    to me its look like STB & DS2, a chimcal agent used to neutralize chimical warfare fluids

  • Fruitbat44

    Interesting. No I idea I’m afraid, but might some summation be made from the fact that the vials are made of glass rather than plastic?
    Other than that, can you imagine the “fun” being had taking these through airport security?
    “And these are sir?”
    “Just something we picked up in Afghanistan”
    Finds oneself in a rapidly emptying departure hall . . . .

  • claymore

    Those are nice and it sure is what we were looking for. But they look just a tad different with the clear looking liquid having a mottled look in these new ones and the top “sealing material” looks different. Not sure if those coatings seal the top or are just for color coding the different liquids.

    Have our experts “Yuri Lyamin of Armament Research Services (ARES) and to Toni” seen the style I posted before? I would think mine are an older version as they were found around 1987. My set also did not have the white labels and there was no left over adhesive on the container to indicate there ever was a label like these and bob the_larger found.

    Like I said we sure do have a bunch of experts on this stuff on this site. Good work and thanks for the info.

  • mikewest007

    All’s said, so I’ll just add a bit of trivia: Polish decon kits from the mid to late commie era used plastic – they came in an OD plastic casing with a small metal spike used to pierce open the decontamination solution containers, and the containers themselves were made out of transparent rubbery plastic. My grandpa used to have a few of those, I don’t know where from and I don’t care.

  • claymore

    Wow my nephew just translated the writing on the label of the new ones that came from
    Yuri Lyamin of Armament Research Services (ARES) and Toni.

    Here is his email with the translation into english:

    “Translation of label from the decontamination kit… looks like a 2-stage process that uses both vials, rather than choosing which vial is appropriate for the particular
    CW that’s been used.

    Instructions For Use

    1. Use the first swab to remove drops of OV from the weapon. (I assume OV refers to CW)

    2. Break off the lid from the red head ampoule, moisten the second swab to wipe the weapon, gradually consuming all of the solution.

    3. Break off the lid of the black head ampoule, moisten the third swab to wipe the weapon, gradually consuming all of the solution.

    4. Use the fourth swab to wipe the weapon dry.

    5. Use the fifth swab to lubricate the weapon.

    6. Bury or burn the swabs.

    Attention! Solutions are poisonous if they enter the body.” Good job Phil thanks!!

  • some guy

    This seems to have a lot more info but it’s all in Russian. First link has a diagram showing whats in the metal tin. Second link has another photo of the kit as well and another with a full box of them packed with other decontamination gear.

    The kits are also mentioned on page 11 of this .pfd of a declassified document about Soviet chemical warfare logistics from the Defense Intelligence Agency dated June 15 1987.

  • Postal Observer


  • Karl