I might also add, that if they weren't intended and certified as a single loco, then they wouldn't be. For example, this "3ES10" (unofficial name) is just a twin-unit 2ES10 with added later 2ES10.S booster, because it wasn't certified a whole loco. However unofficially many perceive it as one, as in theory it could have been.>>7012
True, and they are an amazing feat of engineering. But since there wasn't a two-unit loco (intended and assigned as a whole loco) based on them, it would be more correct to count them as world's most powerful single-unit locomotive. FF, I believe before that it was the other Russian beast, EP200 @8000 kW. It was a weird locomotive, a shame it didn't take off.
>it seems that the majority of publications list its stats by section
I also noticed that but I can swear I came across sources which consider it as single loco. At the very least, it WAS after all regarded (at least by some) as world's most powerful loco. In fact, I think it still is by some, just because as you pointed out, it's both that people aren't bothered finding out about some russki locomotives nor many of comrades bothered to translate any info to English, so 4ES5K, even minus the confusion of its modular design, came almost unnoticed.
After all, I must admit, the modular loco concept is VERY
confusing, but it is nonetheless an established practice, it's not like you may or may not believe it is a thing
And again, even not understanding it fully, calling it cheating is kinda ignorant, there isn't such thing as cheating in engineering. You could say, that's as much cheating as calling the NA's trains with DPUs a single train, since there are more than one sets of locomotives.